Psychology 409a - January 30, 2006
The Gender Effect and Emotional Self-Control
By Aaron Reich

Leon James and Diane Nahl (2000). Road Rage and Aggressive Driving: Steering Clear of Highway Warfare. (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books) pp 57-66

Instructions for this activity are found at:
Instructor: Dr. Leon James

Outline for Second Half of Chapter 2

I. The Gender Effect

  • Across cultures, men experience rage, impatience, danger, violence, and competition more frequently than women. Likewise, women experience more positive emotions while driving than men do. In surveys, men are rated higher for every type of aggressive driving behavior.
  • The number of women involved in aggressive driving is rising. The aggressiveness of both genders reflects a rise in permissiveness toward expressing anger toward others.
  • The increase in women's aggressive driving has resulted from a growing number of women in the workplace. Further, women often have many stops to make, driving children to school, sports, lessons, shopping, and banking. One study at John Hopkins has shown that the most important factor linked to road rage in women was a high level of home responsibility coupled with a low level of emotional support for their hard work.
  • Men are more aggressive than women in all facets of life, so it is common sense that men would also be more aggressive drivers. It is a biological and social characteristic of men to be more aggressive.
  • II. Emotional Self-Control

  • The ability to control one's emotions is a learned skill with two main components: self-appraisal and self-regulation. Self-appraisal depends on how carefully we monitor our emotions and how we express them. Self-regulation depends on acquiring methods to self-regulate the intensity and expression of our emotions. Both of these skills can be mastered with practice.
  • Emotions directly impact situations, so it is intelligent to exert control over one's emotions behind the wheel. It is difficult to assess one's emotions, and only with diligent practice can mastery over one's emotional expressions be attained. It is easier to answer "What are you thinking?" than "What are you feeling?"
  • Negative emotions encourage negative, judgmental, and self-serving thoughts. Being unaware of one's negative emotions will cause one's thoughts to become negative, biased, and inaccurate. Negative emotions lead us down the path of impulsive, inappropriate, and often dangerous or injurious behavior.
  • There are three mental control techniques to suppress distressing ruminations behind the wheel: 1) Postponing the immediate satisfaction you intensely desire, 2) Avoiding savoring the victory and the pleasurable anticipation of punishing and taking revenge, and 3)Redirecting negative scenarios of justification that give you permission to engage in hostile acts.
  • One must not be carried away or lose control during emotional arousal. One must learn how to redirect thoughts by postponing or giving up the impulse to express negative emotions. Once the negative thoughts are redirected, one can avoid fantasies of retaliation and the associated enjoyments of vengence.
  • All of this requires one to consciously reject the justifications that the mind fabricates, no matter how "right" they seem. By letting go of thoughts of vengence, one can then make a more socially positive choice of action.
  • III. Related Links

    1. Statistics of Aggressive Driving for the Genders - This link provides some statistics for aggressive driving for both genders. The information here describes crashes, injuries, and fatalities due to aggressive driving for both men and women. As one would expect from the information provides by this outline, men score higher in all categories.

    2. Driver Psychology - This is a link to an article by Spencer McDonald about driving psychology. The information here is very similar to the work being done by Dr. James. This article addresses why behavioral and cognitive training techniques have failed to positively affect the growing problem of aggressive driving.

    3. The Fast and the Furious - This link provides information about work being done by other psychologists in the realm of driving psychology. It provides a few other names in the field and briefly explains some of their findings. It is good to see that other work is being done by people other than Dr. James.

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