submitted to Prof. Leon James
Psy 250, Field Observation Report
August 12, 1988.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Feelings, Thoughts, and Actions Classified 2
Aggression Denied 3
Driving and Aggression 3
Studies of Aggressive Driving Behavior 4
Studies of Stop Sign Behavior 4
Observations 5
Observations before Change 5
Observations after Change 10
About My Driving 14
The Parallel with Spiritual Development 14
Other Remarks and Comments 15
About the Experiment 16
Towards a Better Driver 17


This is a report of a self-change experiment on driving behavior. The dimension studied is behavior at stop signs, and before turning right on red lights. The experiment will be carried out in two phases. The first phase is the observation before change and is used to establish the "base rate" behavior at stop signs and red lights before turning right. The second phase is to observe the same type of data after change.

The basis of this experiment is self-observation. As mentioned in Social Psychology (Gergen &; Gergen, 1986), reflecting about themselves can put people in touch with their basic moral values and may help them to present themselves with honesty to others . Self -awareness may help people act according to their own standards. The purpose of the experiment is to study the relation between driving and aggression, and through the experiment, investigate ways to improve driving behavior.

Feelings, Thoughts, and Actions Classified

Human behavior can be categorized into three components: affective behavior, cognitive behavior, and sensory-motor behavior. Affective behavior and cognitive behavior can be described as mental behavior; affective behavior is the will and feelings, cognitive behavior is the intellect and thoughts, while sensory-motor behavior is physiological. In the driving context, the affective component would be the driver's will, the cognitive the driver's rationality, and knowledge and the sensory-motor the driver's performance (Jakobovits' lecture, 1988).

Conformity can also be divided into three stages: obedience, compliance, and internalization. Obedience is a change in belief or behavior in response to pressure from an authority figure. Compliance is the tendency to yield to group pressure in order to avoid punishment or non-conformity; the outward change is not necessarily accompanied by an inward change. Internalization is the tendency to yield to group expectations because of the belief that the group is correct; it could also be the incorporation of another person's beliefs into one's own value system (Gergen &; Gergen, 1986).

So in effect, driving behavior fits into matrix drawn up Dr. Jakobovitz (lecture 1988).

INTERNALIZATION mutual love wisdom enjoyment, usefulness
COMPLIANCE enlightened conscience rationality intelligence coordination
conscience propriety efficiency

conscience -- maintaining the motivation to comply to rules
propriety -- developing correct driving habit. Obey the rules that you know
efficiency -- reducing errors in vehicle maneuvering
enlightened conscience -- feeling sympathy for other drivers
rationality - -avoiding attribution errors
coordination -- proper sharing of road with other users
mutual love -- experiencing intense fear of hurting others, always treating others with respect
wisdom --how you react to situations, altruistic ideals in driving, e.g. acceptance of police
enjoyment -- enjoying driving

Aggression Defined

Aggression is any behavior designed to deliver negative outcomes to other person or persons (Gergen and Gergen, 1986, p.225). There are different views as to what causes aggression. Writers like Freud trace the mainsprings of aggression primarily to internal sources, and assume that man has a spontaneously engendered drive impelling him attack and even destroy other persons; this energy must be discharged (Eysenck, 1982). Another view sees aggression as drive. The classic presentation is the frustration-aggression hypothesis, which implied an innate connection between an antecedent stimulus event, the frustration, and the subsequent aggression (Eysenck, 1982). The social learning view suggest that an individual's potential to behave aggressively stems from neurophysiological characteristics, and given the capacity to acquire and retain aggression in one's behavioral repertoire, such acquisition proceeds by means of direct or vicarious experiences (Corsini, 1987).

Driving and Aggression

A car is probably the most dangerous weapon that most of us will ever possess. It is almost like a license to kill. According to an article by Lobue (1987), the driving situation has become a metaphor of the powerlessness we experience in our daily lives. The threat of powerlessness is transferred to our driving behavior. In an attempt to avoid feelings of helplessness, we become more aggressive when driving.

Aggressive behavior has been exhibited in driving situations. In the summer of 1987, drivers in Los Angeles took aggression to the extreme. Shooting incidents happened on the freeways in California. Other aggressive driving behaviors include tailgating, abrupt lane change, deliberate slowing, or abrupt braking.

Studies of Aggressive Driving Behavior

Studies have shown that that characterizes high-risk individuals and sets them apart from the general driving population (Donovan, et al., 1985). Compared to the general driving population the high-risk drivers had higher levels of driving aggression and competitive speed and a lover level of driving-related internal locus of control; they were more depressed, not as well adjusted emotionally, and had a higher level of sensation-seeking. They had higher scores on the subscales of assaultiveness verbal hostility and resentment and also reported more driving as a means of tension reduction than the general group.

Studies of Stop Sign Behavior

According to Feest (1968) some laws may be termed "unstigmatic"; in that their violation is not generally thought of as criminal. In such circumstances, behavior is likely to be a function of cross-pressures (Sigelman & Sigelman, 1976) among the law, local customs, situational and personal characteristics of the individual. Coming to a full stop at stop signs seems to be one McKelvie's study (1986) of driver behavior at stop signs shows that the presence of another vehicle is associated with greater adherence to the law and that if the road seems clear most drivers only slow down.


This section presents the data collected for the experiment, Which includes thoughts, emotions, and actions taken while driving. Data are collected by taking notes after each trip. A summary of the data will be given, followed by an interpretation of the data. Data will be interpreted in terms of the above classifications and studies.

Observations before Change

Trip 1 -- July 26

I was driving home from school and as usual I kept thinking about my own problems. At one point I felt "mad"; and stepped hard on the accelerator, but immediately checked the speedometer and reminded myself not to go too fast. The "limit" I set for myself is 65 mph on the received a phone call the night before. It was a long conversation and I hate talking long on the phone, especially when the other person didn't have anything important to talk about. I didn't hang up although I wanted to and kept listening Just because I didn't want to be rude. I was mad at that person for wasting my time, and was mad at myself for not telling him to stop talking (in a polite manner, of course.)

Then I told myself to forget the whole thing and think of something else. I remember the talk show I watched that morning. I like the host; he is very good. I felt better. Since this was the first day of my observation, I thought about the report and how 1 should organize it. Then I came to a stop sign and made a full stop before turning left to a two-way street as I always do.

Here we can see the tendency of using driving as a means of blowing off steam. Also the affective obedience not to go too _ is the element of unstigmatic laws -- the speed limit I respect i8 not the actual speed limit. We can also of everyday situations on the drivers attitudes. The tendency to see driving as a means of blowing of f steam needs but usually it slips my mind. But now that I am consciously observing my driving dangerous and definitely needs to be rid of.

Trip 2 --July 26

This was a short trip and I was not in a hurry. As I left school I only made a half stop at the stop sign before turning onto the freeway ramp. There wasn't anything particular on my mind, and so I Just relaxed and listened to the radio. I had to pick up my mother, but I was half an hour early, so I decided to drive around for a while. I drove to Wakiki and was kind of lost because I don't know the area very well. So I depended on my sense of direction to get myself back. A car cut in front of me from a hotel driveway. He shouldn't have done that because there was not angry and I was surprised too, because usually I would be. I said to myself, "He was not right, but we'll let him go this time since I am not in a hurry".

To let the car cut in front of me without feeling angry was affective compliance, but it only occurs when I was not in a hurry. In other words, I only felt sympathy for other drivers when doing 80 is not going to put me in a disadvantageous situation. It seems to me that my moral standard is contingent say this, but it shows that I am not consistent with respect to having good driving attitude.

Trip 3 --July 26

On this trip, I had another passenger beside me. As came to the first stop sign, I didn't come to a full stop before turning right. The drive on H1 and H2 was easy, because I was only following traffic, and the traffic was not heavy. All the time I was going about 55 mph. I became worried about the gas level, as it was running low. I thought maybe I should get some gas before I go to school tomorrow, otherwise I may not be able to make it back home. And I hate to think that I would be stranded on the freeway

This time I noted that I was very conscious of my thoughts, trying to remember them so that I could write them down at the end of the drive. I was thinking about the weight this paper carries, how it would affect my grades, and the like. I was still at a loss as to how I should start the paper. As I was making a right turn on to Lanikuhana Avenue, I didn't stop at the stop sign but just slowed down as usual because there wasn't any car in sight. It was as if I have always interpreted this particular stop sign as a yield sign.

Seeing a stop sign as a yield sign is common among drivers. As McKelvie's survey shows (1986), his respondents believed in general that 46% of drivers came to a complete stop and about 11% continued straight through, but that higher levels of stopping occurred with the presence (68%) than with the absence (43%) of another vehicle. My behavior, that "I didn't stop at the stop sign but just slowed down ... because there wasn't any car in sight" supports the survey.

It seems that I would comply with the law if right, but it was also finding an excuse to Justify my incorrect thoughts. I shouldn't be finding excuses for my mistakes, and I shouldn't be doing the wrong act then know that it is wrong. It seemed logical, because if there are no car in sight, why stop? But there again, I am finding excuses. This whole line of reasoning shows that not only was not following the law in my driving performance, but also I was "resisting" affectively and cognitively.

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