London, June 14 : Funky messages like "Drive It Like It's Stolen" on your car's body, don't just reveal your personality, but also indicate that you are prone to road rage than those who do not adorn their cars with these bumper stickers, says a new study.
Recently, there is a clear upsurge in the number of road rage incidents, bouts of aggressive driving such as speeding or tailgating, or confrontations with other motorists.
In their research, psychologist William Szlemko and his colleagues at Colorado State University in Fort Collins thought that increasingly crowded roads might be leading to rise in temper. And humans like many other animals are prone to develop territorial aggression due to overcrowding. Thus the researchers believed this to be the reason for increasing road rage incidents.
For their study, the researchers questioned hundreds of volunteers about their cars and driving habits, where they were asked to describe the value and condition of their cars, and if they have customized their vehicle by adding seat covers, bumper stickers, special paint jobs, stereos and even plastic dashboard toys.
They also asked questions about how the participants responded to specific driving situations and used a pre-existing scale called "Use of vehicle to express anger" for detecting the presence of road rage in their participants.
They discovered that those having a larger number of personalized items on or in their car were sixteen percent more likely to get involved in road rage.
"The number of territory markers predicted road rage better than vehicle value, condition or any of the things that we normally associate with aggressive driving," Nature quoted Szlemko, as saying.
In fact, it is the number of bumper stickers, and not their content, that may tell about road rage. Thus, even a sticker "Jesus saves" may turn out to be as troublesome as "Don't mess with Texas". However, Szlemko admitted that these results did not surprise him at all.
"We have to remember that humans are animals too. It's unrealistic to believe that we should not be territorial," said Szlemko.
Psychologist Graham Fraine at Queensland University's Transport Policy Office in Australia, has said that not much research has been done earlier for probing the drivers' territorial feelings about their cars.
"This work clearly demonstrates that people will actively defend a space or territory that they feel attached to and have personalized with markers," said Fraine.
Szlemko pointed out that this territoriality might boost road rage as drivers are in a private space (their car) and a public one (the road) at the same time.
"We think they are forgetting that the public road is not theirs, and are exhibiting territorial behaviour that normally would only be acceptable in personal space," he said.
While the finding may perhaps help psychologists to identify and potentially prevent road rage, the discovery can also be applied to other situations besides motoring, like in your office.
The study is reported in the journal Applied Social Psychology1.