Gender-Based Judgments of Traffic Violations: The Moderating Influence of Car Type1

Authors


  • 1

    The authors thank Pat Ward and Wendy Truman for their assistance in developing materials for this study; and Peter Lawrence, Eamonn Ferguson, and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Claire Lawrence, School of Psychology, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2RD, United Kingdom. E-mail: cl@psychology.nottingham.ac.uk

Abstract

This paper reports the findings of a study investigating interpretations of driver behavior during a traffic accident. Using authentic road-accident reports including figurative depictions of the accident and a photograph of the car involved, participants were asked to make judgments of the driver's carelessness and aggression before and during the accident. Contextual factors were manipulated by altering the type of car driven (following Davies, 1999) and the sex of the driver. Results showed that car type influenced the allocation of cause of the accident, with drivers of a BMW being described as having acted more aggressively, and drivers of Smart Cars having been depicted as acting more carelessly, despite the actions of both drivers being held constant. In addition, the actions of the female driver were interpreted as more attributable to driver carelessness than driver aggression or external factors. Results are discussed with reference to car-type stereotypes. Ways in which such biased interpretations could influence how drivers respond to other road users in real-life situations are suggested.

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