You probably know drivers who honk, tailgate, and shake their fists; you know others who give drivers space and respect. Now researchers have identified a trait the aggressive drivers might share: Narcissism.
A team of researchers tested the link in three studies. The first two studies simply surveyed samples of people on two key variables. Here's how the study was described by the APS website:
The participants answered questions from the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, a set of questions used since 1988 to measure narcissism. This questionnaire had participants rate how strongly they agreed with items such as: “I like to be the center of attention,” or “I am an extraordinary person” on a 1 to 5 scale. They then addressed similar items about aggressive driving behavior: “I often swear when driving a car,” or “When driving my car, I easily get angry about other drivers.” ...The researchers report that the more narcissistic drivers are, the more angry and aggressive they reported becoming on the road.
a) Let's talk measurement first. How was narcissism measured--Did they use a self report? An observational measure? or a physiological measure?
b) Now for the second variable, aggressive driving: How was this measured--Was it self report? An observational measure? or a physiological measure?
c) Was this a correlational or experimental study? How do you know?
d) Sketch a graph (with well-labeled axes) of the results of the study.
Next, the researchers conducted a lab-based study with university students. They measured narcissism just as they'd done before, but they measured aggressive driving differently. Here's how they measured aggressive driving in the lab:
...participants sat in the driver’s seat of a 2010 Honda Accord, surrounded on three sides by a curved projection screen. In a 15- to 25-minute driving exercise, the participants saw other computer-generated cars and were told that some of them were being operated by other study participants. (In fact, the experimenters were controlling the other vehicles.)
During the exercise, the participants encountered:
- a car pulling suddenly in front of them;
- a traffic jam with two 10-second full traffic stops, one after another;
- a construction zone with one lane closed and the other slowed down;
- a second car mimicking the human driver’s behavior; and
- a traffic light that was red for 60 seconds and green for just 5 seconds.
The researchers found that the participants who scored high on narcissism measures were more likely to tailgate, speed, drive off-road, cross the center line into oncoming traffic, drive on the shoulder, honk their horn, or use “verbal aggression” or “aggressive gestures,” in the experimenters’ chaste wording.
e) In this study, how was aggressive driving measured--Did they use a self report? An observational measure? or a physiological measure?
f) Was this a correlational or experimental study? How do you know?
g) Sketch a graph of the results of the study. Label your axes mindfully.
h) Can you think of moderators of this basic relationship? For example, might there be situations or settings for which narcissism is especially strongly linked to aggressive driving? (As you answer, consider this: Past work on narcissism has established that narcissists aren't always aggressive; they are mainly aggressive when others reject them or when they are provoked.) Create a moderator table like those seen in Chapter 8 (e.g., Figure 8.19 or Table 8.5)
i) Can you think of a mediator that explains the relationship between narcissism and aggressive driving? If so, sketch a mediator diagram like those seen in Chapter 9 (e.g., Figure 9.11 or Figure 9.13)
Good news! The study itself is open-access. You can see the empirical journal article here.