Science Focus - the home of BBC Science Focus Magazine
Why do people become aggressive when driving? © Getty Images

Why do people become aggressive when driving?

Subscribe to BBC Science Focus Magazine and get 6 issues for just £9.99

Asked by: Paul Mellor, via email

The boundaries of the situation play a part – whereas a late-running pedestrian can walk more quickly, a driver often has no choice but to follow the speed of the car in front, or to give way to other vehicles. Compounding matters is the fact that we tend to be highly territorial about our cars – they’re our own private space, and this is at odds with the fact that we’re driving them in an often extremely busy public place.

Advertisement

The role of territoriality in road rage was confirmed by a 2008 study at Colorado State University, which found that people who put more effort into personalising their cars (with bumper stickers and such like – a sign of territoriality) were more prone to anger at the wheel. However, the idea that driving totally transforms our characters is an exaggeration. Many studies show that it’s those who are generally more impulsive and aggressive in everyday life who are more inclined to road rage.

Read more:


Advertisement

Subscribe to BBC Science Focus Magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun facts.

Authors

Dr Christian Jarrett is a cognitive neuroscientist, science writer and author. He is the Deputy Editor of Psyche, the sister magazine to Aeon that illuminates the human condition through psychology, philosophy and the arts. Jarrett also created the British Psychological Society's Research Digest blog and was the first ever staff journalist on the Society's magazine, The Psychologist. He is author of Great Myths of The Brain and Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sponsored content