by Angelica Gilmer

Instructions For This Report What is a Driving Personality Make-Over 5 Self Witnessing Reports My Definition of A Driving Personality Make-Over
Related Psychological Concepts My Mini-Self-Modification Experiment Conclusion To Bottom Of Page

What Is A Driving Personality Makeover

Before we begin anything I'd like to define a few terms.  First of all, what is a driving personality?   Imagine this. You're driving along, minding your own business when all of a sudden the driver next to you cuts in front of you missing your car by a few inches. What do you do? Most of us, after jamming on the breaks to slow down, would swear, gesture at them or criticize their driving under our breath. Now here's another one. It's late at night, say about 12a.m. and you're going home on the freeway. To your surprise, the freeway is totally clear. How fast do you go?  Do you obey the posted speed limit?  Do you push the needle and take off?  Your answers to these questions helps to determine your driving personality.

When considering your driving personality, it is important to realize that it's made up of three domains: affective (feelings, motives), cognitive (thoughts, judgments), and the sensorimotor domain (your physical sensations or actions). Without being aware of your feelings and thoughts, you won't be able to understand why you do the things you do.

So a driving personality make-over would be our attempt to change or improve certain aspects of our driving.  It can also be defined as looking at your habits, both good and bad in order to decide what changes could be made.  Driving is a privilege which we often take for granted and by doing this, we often endanger the lives of others.

5 Self Witnessing Reports

Carolyn Agmata Gary Uno

Jenica Guerra

Denise Tanaka

Aaron Takahashi

Carolyn Agamata, a G9er, Psy 409, had this to say about tailgating behavior. 

"At one point some guy in a red Cherokee license plate *** *** (I better not mention it just to keep
this guy out of trouble or myself from being attacked), tailgated me majorly. Not following close but tailgating as close as a couple inches. I'm not kidding. With 3 accidents on record, I panicked and went faster. Still he kept on kissing my bumper and therefore, I began swearing up a storm, calling him names, and even clenching my fist almost bringing out the middle finger. He must've chose me to pick on because he could've switched lanes but I guess harassing me was his intent, maybe to take out the anger due to a fight he probably might've gotten into. Well, most times in the morning, there's doomed to get stuck in traffic and so it came about. I slowed down and the lunatic in the red jeep still drove fast. I prepared for a stop and could see that he had to break hard. I giggled and kept on giggling until the last I saw of him."

Gary Uno, G6, Psy 459 

"I noticed that when driving, if someone does something I don't like and the person is someone who I feel un-intimidated by, I sometimes feel the urge to retaliate in some way. Whether it's cussing, tailgating or driving by them just to stare, I need some way to express my displeasure. For some strange reason, retaliating seems to make the situation better for me. For example, I was driving 25mph on a slightly winding two way, two lane road. Apparently, I wasn't going fast enough because these two guys in
back of me were tailgating me on their mopeds. To make things worse, they kept revving their little moped engines which in turn made this irritating noise. With each rev, and with every inch closer they came, I remember feeling more and more irritated. So I slowed down to about 20mph which caused them to drive even closer. At one point, I saw them checking to see if it was clear and I knew they wanted to overtake me. So they accelerated, swerved to the side of me and tried to overtake me. When they reached about half the length of my car, I stepped on the gas and sped up. They were forced to get back in our lane and they weren't happy. As I saw the disgust on their face, I remember feeling good that I was able to piss them off."

Jenica Guerra, G6, Psy 459 

'My self-modification experiment focused on "following too close". The reason I chose this act is because it has always been a problem for me. From the beginning of my driving life, people have consistently commented on how I follow very close to other cars. After a few years, I realized this was a real problem. Since then, I have improved. Although, at the present, I do not receive comments from my driving companions on my following too close, I know that I do drive too close and it is dangerous."

Denise Tanaka

"I must admit I am also a tailgater. I usually do it to punish other drivers for offenses I believe they have committed against me. I do this when someone cut in front of me in an unsafe manner (e.g. they speed up and go in front, while almost taking the front corner of my car with them or when I'm going 60-65 mph and someone comes in front going at least ten mph slower) or when I'm trying to get on the freeway and someone speeds up so I won't go in front. I know two wrong don't make a right, but I can't seem to help myself. When I feel I've been wronged, revenge comes to my mind. Tailgating also depends on how a person feels on a certain day. When have a bad day, I find myself more prone to tailgate people, sometimes for no reason at all."

Aaron Takahashi

"On September 22, 1995 I suddenly observed myself tailgating someone as I was driving home from the UH. I couldn't see the person's mole on their face but I was closer than I would normally want to be to another vehicle. The reasons for this was that I was in the middle of a lot of traffic and I didn't want to be the cause of a traffic jam so I kept up with the flow of traffic as best as I could. I also found that I wanted to follow so close that nobody would be able to cut in front of me, in other words, I was there first and it didn't make sense that someone behind me could beat me somewhere because I let him in." 

My Definition Of A Driving Personality Make-Over

A driving personality make-over is when a driver's negative attitudes towards driving and other motorists are identified and can be altered to include a more positive view, opinion, and driving behavior. The first step to modify any aspect of a driver's personality is to make the person aware of their own negative behaviors. If the motorist is able to witness for himself the way he interacts on the road, then he will be better able to address the specific negative attitudes that need to be corrected.  Before any self-modification may be done, however, the driver must also be taught the differences between anti-social and pro-social behavior and must be shown what conduct in their driving practices are anti-social in nature and can be worked on. 

Psychological Concepts Related To Driving Personality Make-Overs

Anti-Social Behaviors Self-Defense Mechanisms Projection Rationalization
Delusions of Grandeur Pro-Social Behaviors Altruism Civic Duty

Anti-Social Behaviors 
Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines anti-social behavior as being conduct or attitudes that are hostile or harmful to organized society, especially being or marked by behavior that deviates sharply from the social norm. A substantial amount of the interaction that takes place on the roads falls under the first part of this definition and consequently, contradicts the last statement ("behavior that deviates sharply from  the social norm"). The anti-social attitudes that plague our streets are quickly becoming the rule rather than the exception to the rule. 

Self-defense Mechanisms 
Self-defense mechanisms are described by psychologists as being the unconscious functions of a person used to protect themselves from anxiety-evoking material by preventing accurate recognition of this material. One form of self-defense is projection. Other forms include: rationalization, displacement, denial, repression, regression, reaction formation, and sublimination, all of which to varying degrees, may be found among the driver population. 

Psychological Concept #1:  Projection 
Projection is a self-defense mechanism in which undesirable ideas, feelings, and impulses are attributed to the actions of others. Projection or displacement is one of the most common forms of self-defense that is found in road ragers. It includes actions such as retaliating when the driver of the car behind honks their horn to tell you that the light has turned green at an intersection you have stopped at, following closely the car in front when they are going the speed limit while everyone else is traveling faster, and cussing at the commuters in other cars for boxing your car in when you are trying to weave through traffic. 

Psychological Concept #2:  Rationalization 
Another self-defense mechanism that can be found among road ragers is rationalization. In this mechanism, drivers try to justify their unacceptable behavior by using self-deceit. One example of this is when a single person drives in the carpool lane with the excuse that everyone is driving slow in the other lanes and no one would get "hurt" by the act.  Another example would be when people who are tailgating rationalize that the driver ahead of them is going much too slow and maybe if I follow him closely he'll speed up or get out of the way.  Basically rationalization is a way of making excuses up for your behavior when you know it is wrong.

Psychological Concept #3:  Delusions of Grandeur 
Delusions of Grandeur are the erroneous beliefs that one is omnipotent and omniscient or to some extent "Godly". At very least, people who suffer with Delusions of Grandeur believe that they are righteous, innocent, and blameless. Drivers who have delusions of this type often exhibit one or both of the self-defense mechanisms mentioned above or any of those acknowledged by the field of psychology. These are the people you can normally find yelling, cussing, and calling all the
other drivers names, as if everyone is wrong and they are right. 

Pro-Social Behaviors 
Pro-social behaviors are behaviors that are characterized by helping others and making a contribution to society. In terms of vehicular activity, this would include any and all actions that are executed for the benefit of others (ie. making room in a lane for another car to enter) and sometimes disregarding one's own interests in order to extend help to others. 

Psychological Concept #4:  Altruism 
Altruism is defined as the unselfish concern for the welfare of others, or selflessness. Altruistic deeds in ground transportation include: stopping for pedestrians to cross in a high-traffic area with no streetlights, calling for help when sighting a stalled vehicle, or stopping to provide aid when witnessing an accident. 

Psychological Concept #5:  Civic Duty 
Civic duty is the obligation that a person feels to protecting and providing for the needs and interests of others in his/her community. This encompasses a large amount of each driver's ideology on and off the roads. It originates and is a part of each individual's up-bringing, moral values, religious views, and social practices. 

Angelica Gilmer's Mini-Self-Modification Experiment
I decided to focus on speeding and my impatience on the road. The reason I chose these particular aspects is because these are the main things that I have a problem with when out on the road.

Day 1
I decided to do my self-witnessing on a day when I had to go to school because I'm always getting stuck in
traffic on these days. I felt this would be a good time to monitor my impatience. The day started off rainy at 7:00 am in the morning.  I got in my car and was off down Kailua Road.  About ten minutes into the drive I noticed my speeding, I was going 50 miles an hour down a 35 mile road. This was something I tend to do everyday, "woops, slow down there's a cop up ahead with a speedomitor." I hit my breaks and slow down to about 37 miles an hour, "okay I passed him, now I can go right back up to 50 miles." The car ahead is going a wee bit too slow, so I change lanes and pass him. "Ah yes, the wonderful Pali highway is coming up." Now I really put my foot to the pedal.  I am going about 67 miles on a 50 mile freeway. There is a car ahead going slow in the left lane, I hate that. "Okay bud move out of the left lane, your going way too slow." Five minutes later I can see the pile up of cars in the distance.  TRAFFIC!  I swear and slow down.  My thought are 100% focused on how much this traffic sucks and I want to scream.  I catch myself and try to find a CD.  I notice that while I'm sitting there I have some ridiculous thoughts.  I'm thinking that I wish I could just zoom past all of these cars and get to the freeway.

The drive home is at 3:30 in the afternoon, it starts off bad, I'm stuck in traffic trying to leave the parking structure here at UH. Taking a left out of the parking structure 90% of the time you are stuck, if the city synchronized the traffic lights properly we wouldn't have this problem. I finally get fed up and get into the right lane, I zoom pass all the poor souls who have to wait.  Now, I still need to get into the left lane so I can turn left on University and get on the H West.  So what do I do?  I put my blinker on and snake in front of the cars that have been waiting.  I hate when I see people doing this.  Finally I'm on my way to the freeway.   I hate this on ramp, it's really hard to get on the freeway on a busy day, especially when it's raining.  I finally get on with a sigh of relief, now I am driving at about 15 miles per hour on the freeway. There are a lot of cars around me driving below the speed limit because of traffic and the rain.  I never could understand why the rain makes people so slow.   "Oh no I hate this", coming up is the "my blinker is on but I don't need to change lanes guy". I try to pass him as soon as possible just in case he really does need to use that blinker. I do this because I really hate when people are trying to sneak into your lane when both lanes are going just as slowly.   Finally I'm going down the road towards my home, I'm going 45 miles now in a 25 mile road. I park the car and take a deep breath, glad to be home.

Day 2
Today I will deliberately try to drive the complete opposite of my driving style, I'm going to try to modify my own driving behavior. The day starts off at 7:00 am.  I start off going down my street, I am going 25 miles per hour in a 25 zone.  On Kailua Road I keep within the 35mph speed limit and the woman in the car behind me is tailgating me big time.  I feel my pressure rise and want to hit the breaks but I don't.  Instead I decide I'm not going to look into my rearview mirror.  If I don't see her tailgating me it won't make me so angry.   The cars around my are driving really fast.  "My gosh, these drivers are maniacs."   "Is this what I'm like on the road?" I'm on the freeway now, I'm driving the speed limit. I get into the right lane to be considerate of the faster drivers. I'm now at my destination.  When I park the car I realize that I'm much calmer than usual and a little shocked at some of the observations I noted.

The time is now 3:00 pm as a get into my car to drive home. I decide to be patient and wait in the long line of cars leaving the parking structure. Although it takes forever to make in onto University Ave. at least I don't feel like a big jerk cutting off a bunch of cars. I reach the freeway on-ramp, now this is the real test, I try to stay calm as I fight my way on to the freeway. With a sigh of relief I make it on. I am going the speed limit down the freeway, in the right lane of course.  Traffic isn't so bad today.  People are passing me, I feel a little relaxed as I drive, I don't feel the need to speed.  There's a guy tailing me, I tell myself it's not worth it to get mad. He can tail me all he wants, he's just going to make himself even more irritated. Finally the guy passes me giving me a dirty look and sticks the middle finger at me.  Unfortunately I lost it here and stick finger back at him while shouting F**K YOU!   The second after I did this I knew I shouldn't have.  I see a blue light up ahead and feel relieved that I don't have to hit the breaks and worry about whether or not her caught me.   I drive down my road towards my home, people are passing me and I get irritated.  Irritated because there are a lot of kids in our neighborhood and these people really should slow down.   I park the car with a feeling that I've accomplished something.  I think I did a pretty good job of modifying my behavior.  There were some rough times like the tailgater incident, but I feel okay. What a change from day one I don't feel irritated or tired.


Looking up self-witnessing reports, searching for psychological concepts and doing a mini-experiment all helped me in different ways.

The differences in my behavior and feelings were pretty abundant. I noticed there was a good amount of negative behavior and feelings on the first day. The second day there was more of a feeling of calmness, positive feelings and behavior.  The principles used during the self-witnessing experiment were the affective domain, cognitive domain, and the sensorimotor domains. I kept these concepts in mind throughout the experiment. 

I learned a great deal from the self-witness experiment, for example, I feel a lot better when I'm not stressing to speed and pass everyone on the road. I learned that I was not as courteous of a driver as I thought I was. I also learned that being more patient, and not letting other drivers get to me, has a more positive affect on my behavior and feelings.

To Future Generations
Do not skim through self-witnessing reports, this only wastes time. Read through them thoroughly because you will have to do this anyway.                                                                                     

Once you start seriously looking, you will find that many terms can apply.  Buy or borrow a micro recorder if you do not have one. It is a big help. 

Start self-witnessing early, do not wait until the last minute!



I have 3 recommendations for anyone who would like to try this activity: 
1) Be honest with yourself about your driving "flaws". 
2) Don't use self-modification techniques that go against the grain of your personality - the desireable end result is to alter our personality, but the way in which to do this should be compatible with your style. 
3) Have someone else observe you and tell you what they think. Outsiders can sometimes provide good insight about you. 

There are no clear cut answers on how to modify someone's personality. Chances are if you've been driving for a long time it'll be that much harder to change your bad driving habits. The first step for any self-alteration, however, is to recognize that change must occur. That is really where a majority or the work must be done in a situation like this. If road ragers and aggressive drivers could see even half of the things that they do on the streets that is harmful or hostile or immature or "wrong", then maybe they could try self-modification experiments such a this one and make the roads a safer and friendlier place to be.

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