Do Buffalo’s pessimists cause more car wrecks than optimists?
A study from China says it does. The study suggests that there is a connection between having a negative outlook and auto accidents. However, the study is small in size and its methodology suggests to us that further research is needed.
Researchers surveyed 38 motorists with at least three years’ experience behind the wheel. Based on the subjects’ driving records, they were divided into “safe” and “dangerous” categories. The researchers then surveyed the subjects on their driving habits, such as whether they drive through red lights and whether they use their seatbelts.
Next, researchers had the subjects look at a series of photographs that were intended to provoke positive, negative or neutral feelings in the observer. The photos had either a blue or red border, and the subjects were supposed to identify the border’s color as fast as they could.
According to the study, although subjects labeled as “dangerous drivers” quickly identified the color of the borders on neutral and positive photos, they were slower to notice the color of the border when looking at a negative picture. Researchers concluded that this meant that the “dangerous” group had a negativity bias, a psychological term for people who are more influenced by negative experiences. This bias was not present among the “safe” group, which identified the borders of all types of pictures equally fast.
If true, this could have several implications for how safe pessimists are behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. In addition to being more generally reckless, their danger is compounded, according to the Independent reports, since they also tend to react to negative stimuli more slowly that others. The bottom line is that pessimists may not be able to avoid a crash as well as optimists.
Reading about this study, we wonder why they only surveyed 38 people, and how they were able to categorize people so neatly as “dangerous” or “safe” drivers. Still, the study raises interesting questions about personality and traffic safety.