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Study: Associating your car with your identity leads to aggressive driving


By: | October 14th, 2011 | see all comments

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A new study by a Temple University Fox School of Business professor finds those who view their car as an extension of themselves have stronger aggressive driving tendencies.

The study, “Aggressive Driving: A Consumption Experience,” is thought to be the first to comprehensively examine how personality, attitude and values contribute to aggressive driving behaviors. Driving is one of the most common consumptive behaviors, and aggressive driving causes a third of all accidents that involve personal injuries and two thirds of all fatal accidents in the United States.

“It explains much of the phenomenon we knew existed,” said Ayalla Ruvio, lead author and an assistant professor of marketing. For instance, “we know men tend to be more aggressive drivers and we know men tend to see their cars as an extension of themselves more than women.”

Ruvio’s article, published online in the Journal of Psychology & Marketing, takes a consumer behavior perspective of this phenomenon and features two studies conducted in Israel. One took a holistic look at the influence of personality, attitudes and values gathered from 134 surveys of men and women with an average age of 23.5. The second study, of 298 people, built from the first and added the factors of risk attraction, impulsivity, driving as a hedonistic activity and perceptions about time pressures.

The studies found:

  • People who perceive their car as a reflection of their self-identity are more likely to behave aggressively on the road and break the law.
  • People with compulsive tendencies are more likely to drive aggressively with disregard for potential consequences.
  • Increased materialism, or the importance of one’s possessions, is linked to increased aggressive driving tendencies.
  • Young people who are in the early stages of forming their self-identity might feel the need to show off their car and driving skills more than others. They may also be overconfident and underestimate the risks involved in reckless driving.
  • Those who admit to aggressive driving also admit to engaging in more incidents of breaking the law.
  • A sense of being under time and pressure leads to more aggressive driving.

The study findings “suggest that the perception of the car as an extension of the self leads to more aggressive behavior on the road rather than increased driving cautiousness,” the authors wrote, adding that “individuals may view cars and the road space they occupy as their territory and will seek to maintain control over it and defend it as necessary.”

Ruvio said the implications of this study can be seen in numerous cultural contexts because of the strong link between cars and identity. She points to the “soccer-mom” stigma of minivans, the Thelma and Louise personas, and songs such as Shania Twain’s “You Don’t Impress Me Much,” with its line, “I can’t believe you kiss your car goodnight.”

The full article is available at


Join the Conversation - 2 comments

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  • Brian Bissell

    “Those who admit to aggressive driving also admit to engaging in more incidents of breaking the law.”nnHaha yes,u00a0aggressiveu00a0driving is a veryu00a0slipperyu00a0slope…. soon you find yourself robbing banks and addicted to hard drugs…..nnOn a serious note, I have always thought roads should be divided, into a “casual driver” lane or side,… and an “speed driver” section. I find most incidents are caused by the friction between a slow driver and faster one. Neither are inherently right or wrong (well… unless you count those laws…), both see it as their right to drive at the speed they desire. I think both parties would be happier (not perfectly happy…but closer) with an environment moreu00a0conduciveu00a0to their driving style.nnSpeed limits and cops fail to curtail fast drivers, it only penalizes them financially and makes them more attentive to watching for police while driving.nnIn general, I think getting a license should be a very, very hard thing to do…. not a right or cultural passage as it is nowadays. Drivers should be highly skilled, require review on a yearly basis or theu00a0similar, andu00a0knowledgeableu00a0about cars in general.nnThis would cut down on traffic, accidents, global warming/pollution, and much more….nnJust my two cents.nn–Brian

  • Willem Vermejulen

    One could expect this finding, it is in line with other investigations. But we should bare in mind that it is the selling strategy of car and asseccories manufactureres that stimulates this identification. So, in the end, who is to blame????