Gary Stix, a senior editor, commissions, writes, and edits features, news articles and Web blogs for SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. His area of coverage is neuroscience. He also has frequently been the issue or section editor for special issues or reports on topics ranging from nanotechnology to obesity. He has worked for more than 20 years at SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, following three years as a science journalist at IEEE Spectrum, the flagship publication for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He has an undergraduate degree in journalism from New York University. With his wife, Miriam Lacob, he wrote a general primer on technology called Who Gives a Gigabyte?
Follow on Twitter
But maybe they should be.
A look at the ubiquitous aggressive driver in Psychology & Marketing, shows that he (more than she) tends to view a vehicle as an extension of The Self. “Perceiving cars as an extension to oneself might lead pe0ple to interpret any threat to their cars as a direct threat to themselves,” the authors wrote.
The studies didn’t address the obvious question of which part of selves were extended. And maybe this all seems pretty obvious for personal property that is sometimes christened by owners with names like “Exploder,” “Bucky,” “Koo Koo,” “John Claude Grand Slam” and “Desdemona.”
Some of this clearly restates what we already know. Men and cars (ah, you know), teenagers as lethal weapons and when you’re late for work, you step on it. The nominal reason for looking at the question anew was to assess car ownership as a “consumption experience.” Studies on aggressive driving have been around for awhile, but few have looked at the aggro driver from the perspective of consumer marketing behavior.
The two new studies—lumped into “Aggressive Driving: A Consumption Experience” by Ayalla A. Ruvio of Temple University and Aviv Shoham of the University of Haifa, comprising several hundred questionnaires in total—found that people who identify with their car (remember the worst TV show ever, My Mother the Car?) tend to be the ones who weave around slowpokes, zoom ahead to beat you out of a parking space, the same drivers who curse and wave their fists and eventually end up with a pending court date.
In a section called “practical implications,” the authors suggest an advertising campaign that cautions about the risks of aggressive driving, ads that perhaps stress, in the authors’ words, the merits of thinking of the car as “a functional tool [sic] for getting from one place to another.” Ruvio and Shoham scrupulously ignore the biggest question that hangs over the issue of the Porsche, Lamborghini or Mercedes as extension of self.
From the time Madison Avenue stopped becoming a horse and buggy route, it has co-opted the best minds of generation after generation of creative executive to help make consumers believe that the automobile is a form of exoskeleton that is as much a part of each one of us as a right thumb or left femur. So if correlation equals causation, maybe we should pull car ads.
Like I said though, it’ll never happen. Defensive driving spots aren’t going to edge out off-road, light truck, hormone-tickling ad spots during the Super Bowl.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons