'You're a bad driver but i just made a mistake': Attribution differences between the 'victims' and 'perpetrators' of scenario-based aggressive driving incidents

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Abstract

Driver aggression is an increasing concern for motorists, with some research suggesting that drivers who behave aggressively perceive their actions as justified by the poor driving of others. Thus attributions may play an important role in understanding driver aggression. A convenience sample of 193 drivers (aged 17-36) randomly assigned to two separate roles ('perpetrators' and 'victims') responded to eight scenarios of driver aggression. Drivers also completed the Aggression Questionnaire and Driving Anger Scale. Consistent with the actor-observer bias, 'victims' (or recipients) in this study were significantly more likely than 'perpetrators' (or instigators) to endorse inadequacies in the instigator's driving skills as the cause of driver aggression. Instigators were significantly more likely attribute the depicted behaviours to external but temporary causes (lapses in judgement or errors) rather than stable causes. This suggests that instigators recognised drivers as responsible for driving aggressively but downplayed this somewhat in comparison to 'victims'/recipients. Recipients and instigators agreed that the behaviours were examples of aggressive driving but instigators appeared to focus on the degree of intentionality of the driver in making their assessments while recipients appeared to focus on the safety implications. Contrary to expectations, instigators gave mean ratings of the emotional impact of driving aggression on recipients that were higher in all cases than the mean ratings given by the recipients. Drivers appear to perceive aggressive behaviours as modifiable, with the implication that interventions could appeal to drivers' sense of self-efficacy to suggest strategies for overcoming plausible and modifiable attributions (e.g. lapses in judgement; errors) underpinning behaviours perceived as aggressive. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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Lennon, A., Watson, B., Arlidge, C., & Fraine, G. (2011). “You’re a bad driver but i just made a mistake”: Attribution differences between the “victims” and “perpetrators” of scenario-based aggressive driving incidents. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, 14(3), 209–221. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trf.2011.01.001

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