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Green Means Go!

Green Means Go!

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Published by Bryan Kennedy
Examining the effects of car stereotyping on road rage
Examining the effects of car stereotyping on road rage

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Published by: Bryan Kennedy on Mar 07, 2007
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05/12/2013

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Green Means Go
Green Means Go!
 Examining the effects of car stereotyping on road rage
Freny Dessai and Bryan KennedySanta Rosa Junior CollegeProfessor LynchMay 17, 2001
 
Green Means GoThe purpose of this experiment is to understand the relationship between car stereotypes and driver aggression. Car stereotyping is an automatic process wherebydrivers assume the behaviors of drivers around them will correspond with the types of cars they are driving. It follows that the driver of a more aggressive sports car such as aBMW would be stereotyped as driving more aggressively, while the driver of a lessaggressive vehicle such as a Volvo would be considered more friendly and courteous.According to Davies (personal communication, March 30, 2001) of the University of Leicester in England, this process plays an influential role in car accident reports, in thatwitnesses tend to inflate the pre-accident speed of sports cars more than they do sedans.Based on the results of his yet unpublished study, Davies suggests that “driverssometimes make judgments of the likely behavior and intent of other road users basedupon stereotypes of drivers and their cars.” Driver aggression includes the wide range of violent, dangerous motorist behaviors on the roadways and is commonly referred to bythe media with the alliterative term “road rage”.There have been several studies conducted regarding road-rage and driver aggression. Fewer studies, however, have dealt with the issue of car stereotyping and howit relates to driver aggression. A previous study suggests that driver aggression isinfluenced by the status of the car being driven (Doob & Gross, 1968). The participantsfor this experiment were introductory psychology students at a college in North Dakota.
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At a designated stop sign, a male confederate who drove either a high or low statusvehicle honked at the participant. The following actions of the participant weremeasured: rate of acceleration, duration of vacillation, presence of nonverbal gestures,and horn honk duration and latency. This study showed no sign that the sex of the driver had any effect on driver aggression, but a link was found between the type of car beingdriven and the behavior of the participants, showing that car stereotyping was indeedtaking place.These car stereotypes are shaped by the mass media in their depiction of cars inadvertisements. Stereotyping is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as “aconventional, oversimplified conception, opinion, or image” of a person, place or thing.The advertising industry, in their attempt to target a specific consumer market, tend tooversimplify the product they are pitching by presenting images that appeal only to acertain type of buyer. These advertising images then work to shape our stereotypes aboutthe cars we see on the road. In the case of the Mazda Miata, as noted by Bob Garfield of Advertising Age magazine (1998), the car is advertised as being quicker than it actuallyis. Mazda, in their attempt to attract the younger market, project an image of the Miatathat is speedy and aggressive. Because of this, the driver of a Miata would generally beassumed by other drivers to be more aggressive, whether or not this is actually the case.Moreover, Connell and Joint (1996) suggest that our cars become a “statement of ourselves,” in that their shape, size, prestige, and value become an expression of how wewish others to perceive us. They assert that this is so because a car is such a major  purchase in one’s life, represents one’s access to freedom, and is involved in much of theone’s livelihood.In their study on driver aggression, Hennessy and Wiesenthal (1997) attempt to
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