Moderator: Van Canna
Individual differences and the car as an annex of the home
Individual differences in our predisposition to be aggressive may be important in the driving experience in deciding the outcome of conflict.
The extent to which the vehicle symbolizes real and imagined aspects of the driver's individuality has already been outlined; the car is an indication, to both the driver himself and those around him, of social standing, of wealth, of attitude, and of personality.
But when a situation of conflict arises,
individual differences may again be of singular importance.
Any form of attack is a reliable and potent stimulus for aggression, particularly when the "victim perceives the event to be wholly deliberate and indicative of malicious intent.
If this is not the case, i.e., if the individual decides on balance that the conflict arose from error and misjudgment, as is frequently the case on the road, the extent to which aggression is used in retaliation is probably determine to a greater extent by individual predispositions.
The problem of feedback in the driving environment is again important; if it is relatively difficult to communicate to another driver that an unfortunate maneuver was the result of a mistake on your part, his decision as to whether or not your action was deliberate and personally aggressive is internally generated --
you are uniquely reliant on the margin with which he gives the benefit of the doubt, the extent to which he feels generally aggrieved, and therefore his predisposition to being aggressive."
Secondly, as a living space which the driver personally owns, the car is subject to cultural standards of behavior that differ from those which exist in the outside world. In general it is socially acceptable for people to display aggression at a higher level within their own home than they would do in public, often even when it intrudes, by its noise for example, on others.
The car presents similar levels of privacy and territorial invulnerability. To return to the analogy with walking, if the behavior of one pedestrian threatens the safe progress of another, it is immediately important that an accurate assessment is made of whether or not this obstruction is deliberate and whether retaliation is required.
It is more likely that a verbal or physical display of annoyance will be noticed, and an accurate assessment is needed so that an appropriate level of aggression can be displayed .
Otherwise the aggrieved can expect to be ridiculed rather than supported.
The car, therefore, can be seen to straddle the boundary between personally owned space where, within limits, the individual's behavior is accountable only to the standards he has set himself, and the public domain, where behavior is regulated by general acceptability and explicit rules.
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