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Territorial Markings as a Predictor of Driver Aggression and Road Rage1


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    The authors thank Ross Loomis for his assistance with previous drafts of the manuscript.

William J. Szlemko, Department of Psychology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, 80523. E-mail:


Aggressive driving has received substantial media coverage during the past decade. We report 3 studies testing a territorial explanation of aggressive driving. Altman (1975) described attachment to, personalization of, and defense of primary territories (e.g., home) as being greater than for public territories (e.g., sunbathing spot on a beach). Aggressive driving may occur when social norms for defending a primary territory (i.e., one's automobile) become confused with less aggressive norms for defending a public territory (i.e., the road). Both number of territory markers (e.g., bumper stickers, decals) and attachment to the vehicle were significant predictors of aggressive driving. Mere presence of a territory marker predicts increased use of the vehicle to express anger and decreased use of adaptive/constructive expressions.