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Drivers Display Anger-Congruent Attention to Potential Traffic Hazards


Correspondence to: A. N. Stephens, School of Applied Psychology, University College Cork, Enterprise Centre, North Mall, Cork, Ireland.



Previous research has suggested that angry drivers may respond differently to potential hazards. This study replicates and extends these findings. Under simulated driving conditions, two groups of drivers experienced conditions that would either increase angry mood (N = 12; men = 6) or not (control group, N = 12; men = 6). All drivers then performed a neutral drive, during which they encountered a number of traffic events not experienced in the initial drive. These included vehicles emerging from driveways into their path and jaywalking pedestrians. Subjective anger, eye-movement behaviour and driving behaviours (speed and reaction times) were measured as drivers drove. Subjective moods (Profile of Mood States) were assessed before and after each drive. Anger-provoked drivers reported reliably higher increases in angry mood when compared with the control group after the initial drive, and these increases remained stable across the subsequent neutral drive. During the neutral drive, anger-provoked drivers demonstrated evidence of more heuristic style processing of potential hazards, with shorter initial gazes at less apparent hazards and longer latencies to look back at jaywalking pedestrians obscured by parked vehicles. Anger-provoked drivers also took longer to make corrective actions to avoid potential collisions. It is concluded that anger-provoked drivers may initially make more superficial assessments of certain driving situations and consequently underestimate the inherent risk. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.