Normative influences across cultures : conceptual differences and potential confounders among drivers in Australia and China

Fleiter, Judy J., Watson, Barry C., Lennon, Alexia J., King, Mark J., & Shi, Kan (2012) Normative influences across cultures : conceptual differences and potential confounders among drivers in Australia and China. In Proceedings of the AHFE2012 Conference, San Francisco, Calif.

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Normative influences on road user behaviour have been well documented and include such things as personal, group, subjective and moral norms. Commonly, normative factors are examined within one cultural context, although a few examples of exploring the issue across cultures exist. Such examples add to our understanding of differences in perceptions of the normative factors that may exert influence on road users and can assist in determining whether successful road safety interventions in one location may be successful in another. Notably, the literature is relatively silent on such influences in countries experiencing rapidly escalating rates of motorization. China is one such country where new drivers are taking to the roads in unprecedented numbers and authorities are grappling with the associated challenges. This paper presents results from qualitative and quantitative research on self-reported driving speeds of car drivers and related issues in Australia and China. Focus group interviews and questionnaires conducted in each country examined normative factors that might influence driving in each cultural context. Qualitative findings indicated perceptions of community acceptance of speeding were present in both countries but appeared more widespread in China, yet quantitative results did not support this difference. Similarly, with regard to negative social feedback from speeding, qualitative findings suggested no embarrassment associated with speeding among Chinese participants and mixed results among Australian participants, yet quantitative results indicated greater embarrassment for Chinese drivers. This issue was also examined from the perspective of self-identity and findings were generally similar across both samples and appear related to whether it is important to be perceived as a skilled/safe driver by others. An interesting and important finding emerged with regard to how Chinese drivers may respond to questions about road safety issues if the answers might influence foreigners’ perceptions of China. In attempting to assess community norms associated with speeding, participants were asked to describe what they would tell a foreign visitor about the prevalence of speeding in China. Responses indicated that if asked by a foreigner, people may answer in a manner that portrayed China as a safe country (e.g., that drivers do not speed), irrespective of the actual situation. This ‘faking good for foreigners’ phenomenon highlights the importance of considering ‘face’ when conducting research in China – a concept absent from the road safety literature. An additional noteworthy finding that has been briefly described in the road safety literature is the importance and strength of the normative influence of social networks (guanxi) in China. The use of personal networks to assist in avoiding penalties for traffic violations was described by Chinese participants and is an area that could be addressed to strengthen the deterrent effect of traffic law enforcement. Overall, the findings suggest important considerations for developing and implementing road safety countermeasures in different cultural contexts.

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ID Code: 53445
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: No
Keywords: speeding, norms, cross-cultural research, traffic law enforcement, face
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety - Qld (CARRS-Q)
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2012 The Authors
Deposited On: 03 Sep 2012 23:30
Last Modified: 08 Jan 2013 08:27

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