Can’t we all just get along? A qualitative investigation of the cognitive processes motivating driver aggression.

Shaw, Lauren, Lennon, Alexia, & Watson, Barry (2014) Can’t we all just get along? A qualitative investigation of the cognitive processes motivating driver aggression. In 28th International Congress of Applied Psychology (ICAP), 8-13 July 2014, Paris, France. (Unpublished)

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Although driver aggression has been identified as contributing to crashes, current understanding of the fundamental causes of the behaviour is poor. Two key reasons for this are evident. Firstly, existing research has been largely atheoretical, with no unifying conceptual framework guiding investigation. Secondly, emphasis on observable behaviours has resulted in limited knowledge of the underlying thought processes that motivate behaviour. Since driving is fundamentally a social situation, requiring drivers to interpret on-road events, insight regarding these perception and appraisal processes is paramount in advancing understanding of the underlying causes. Thus, the current study aimed to explore the cognitive appraisal processes involved in driver aggression, using a conceptual model founded on the General Aggression Model (Anderson & Bushman, 2002). The present results reflect the first of several studies testing this model. Participants completed 3 structured driving diaries to explore perceptions and cognitions. Thematic analysis of diaries identified several cognitive themes. The first, ‘driving etiquette’ concerned an implied code of awareness and consideration for other motorists, breaches of which were strongly associated with reports of anger and frustration. Such breaches were considered intentional; attributed to dispositional traits of another driver, and precipitated the second theme, ‘justified retaliation’. This theme showed that drivers view their aggressive behaviour as warranted, to convey criticism towards another motorist’s etiquette violation. However, the third theme, ‘superiority’ suggested that those refraining from an aggressive response were motivated by a desire to perceive themselves as ‘better’ than the offending motorists. Collectively, the themes indicate deep-seated and complex thought patterns underlying driver aggression, and suggest the behaviour will be challenging to modify. Implications of these themes in relation to the proposed model will be discussed, and continued research will explore these cognitive processes further, to examine their interaction with person-related factors.

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ID Code: 79125
Item Type: Conference Item (Presentation)
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Driver Aggression, Traffic Psychology, Qualitative, Aggressive Driving
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety - Qld (CARRS-Q)
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2014 [please consult the authors]
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2014 23:52
Last Modified: 03 Dec 2014 23:53

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