Driving Personality Makeover Plan

Jason Nakasato
Report 2
University of Hawaii-Fall 1995
Psychology 459: Traffic Psychology
Dr. Leon James

Introduction: My Driving Personality Makeover Plan

My driving personality makeover plan is relatively simple. For the next five days, every time I drive to and from school, I will record how my feelings, thoughts, and actions interact to influence the way I drive. In order to ensure that I follow through with this plan, I have attached a small tape recorder to the dash of my car using some Velcro. This will allow me to recite and retain valuable self-witnessing data.

The theory behind my plan is to see if constant self-awareness will make me a better social driver. I assume it will. However, I do realize that the toughest part in any situation is trying to maintain constant self-awareness. It is especially tough to be aware of yourself in a situation such as driving, since it has become so routine and boring. Driving for many of us has become second nature and we have already been "programmed" to react a certain way to a particular situation. The only thing that fluctuates is the degree to which we react, and this depends solely upon the way we feel at the moment.

I anticipate it will be tough for me to view driving behavior as a complex entity occurring simultaneously within three conscious behaviors of the individual:

The majority of us aren't even aware of the fact that these three different and distinct levels of behavior exist within each person. But since these are the parts of our self that we must be aware of, according to Dr. Leon James, then I think it's worth a try.

Because modern psychology is thoroughly behavioristic, human capacities have been organized into three distinct groups of behavior: affective behavior, cognitive behavior, and psychomotor behavior.

Affective behavior, or behavior of the will, includes:

Basically anything that pertains to the goal-directedness of a person's actions is considered affective behavior.

Cognitive behavior is the behavior of understanding. It includes:

Overt actions, or psychomotor behavior, includes all experiences that are mediated through sensory and motor channels.

In order to become a "reformed driver", one must realize that these three distinct levels of behavior exist in each individual. One must also understand how each level of behavior can affect the other. Usually your feelings affect your thoughts, and then your thoughts affect your actions. However, sometimes things can get a little complicated because your thoughts can influence the way you feel, and then the way you feel will determine the way you act. I realize this sounds a little confusing right now, but hopefully by the end of this "mini-experiment" you will be able to understand the point I am trying to make.

The reason why I chose this plan is because of its simplicity and convenience. I do realize that most of my data will be of the qualitative type but this should pose no problem. There is only one subject in this "mini-experiment," therefore, I see no need for accumulating numbers.

I anticipate becoming a reformed driver will be no easy task. However if I maintain constant self-awareness of my behavior, then perhaps it will not be as tough as it seems. On the affective level I need to focus on overcoming resistance to change, while on the cognitive level I need to concentrate on a rational analysis of incidents. Finally on the psychomotor or sensorimotor level, I need to give the appearance of being a reformed driver. If I keep these thoughts in mind while going through my driving personality makeover plan, then I think everything will turn out okay.

Day 1: Monday October 16, 1995

As soon as a I entered my car and saw the recorder attached to the dash, I remembered that I had to record everything I was experiencing at the moment. So before I started the car, I turned the recorder on to make sure that whatever came to mind would be recorded on tape. All I had to do was to remember to think out loud. Thus my driving personality makeover plan had begun, and the first thing I said was: "Boy did I have fun last night, even though I only had four hours of sleep it was definitely worth it!!" After starting the car, and driving for only a few blocks, my mind already began to wander.

Instead of concentrating on driving and how my fatigue was influencing it, I was thinking about the good time that I had with Cheryl the previous night and was wondering if she'd like to go out with me again. I was thinking about the way she looked, the way she felt, and especially the way she smelt. The smell of her perfume was still lingering in the car and I just couldn't get her out of my mind. Before I knew it, I had reached the structure and was already looking for parking. I live only ten minutes away and during those ten minutes my thoughts had totally been consumed. Instead of trying to see how my fatigue would affect my thoughts and the way I drive, the only thing I could think about was her. I not once thought about the way I was driving, I just didn't care.

Upon trying to interpret why I had a hard time focusing on the way I was driving, I came to the following conclusion. The smell of her perfume and my fatigue made me weak and irresponsible to the task at hand. Because I was tired, I could not ignore the fragrance and all the things associated with it (It was just too powerful of an experience). Basically, fatigue caused my mind to become weak and one-track. Even though my first responsibility should have been to paying attention to the way I was driving and how my feelings and thoughts influenced it, I just couldn't get past the way I was feeling and thinking about this girl.

During the whole way to school, I was oblivious to everything around me. In fact, I can't even remember which route I took. For traffic psychology, the implications are bad because this shows the lack of importance I put on driving. It shows how easily I can be distracted and influenced. At this point, I wonder if other people think about these things when their driving?

After finishing a full day of classes and work, I was tired but determined to really concentrate on improving my social driving skills. While walking to my car I began to wonder what could make me focus more on driving. Because I live so close and hardly spend much time on the road, I decided that taking the scenic route home would help me to concentrate more on driving.

My route would be down University, down Kalakaua, around Diamond Head, and then on to the freeway for the home run stretch. The time was around 6:45 p.m. and to tell you the truth, there was hardly any traffic on the road this evening.

Stopping prior to the intersection on University and King, I let a car go before me. The person in the car was a local Hawaiian in his thirties or forties. As he pulled in front of me, I was waiting for him to wave or smile to show his gratefulness. But he did nothing of the sort. The only thing he did do was light a cigarette and make me upset.

At this point, instead of getting all bent out of shape, I began to think of possibilities on why he was such an anti-social driver. I came up with a number of possibilities, but yet from my point of view, none of them seemed good enough. From this moment on, I vowed to myself that whenever I'm driving, no matter how I was feeling or what type of mood I was in, I would always acknowledge the presence of other drivers. This would mean that I would have to focus on what I was doing at the moment, driving. As I took the scenic route home, even though I was tired and irritable, every time another driver was kind enough to do me a favor, I would smile and wave. During the entire trip I thanked or acknowledged seven other drivers. Each time I waved and smiled, I hoped I made the other person feel good for being a good social driver.

I took the scenic route home in hopes of getting myself to focus more on the way I drive. It took a middle aged, tobacco smoking, Hawaiian man to show me that by being aware of others I'm more aware of myself. Just by acknowledging other drivers, I was compelled to focus on what I was doing at the present moment, driving. Many of us while driving focus on past or future events, so we're oblivious to the present. We're so wrapped up with past regrets or future anticipation that we forget about what we're doing. I strongly believe that one of the keys to help us focus on the present while driving is to acknowledge other drivers. Imagine if every driver acknowledged the next, wouldn't it be wonderful?

Day 2: Tuesday October 17, 1995

"Today I'm in a rush because I woke up so late. It's already 7:25 and my Japanese class begins at 7:30". These are the first words I said to myself as I entered the car and turned on the recorder. As I pulled out of the garage, I began to think of what I should do. The way I looked at it I had two alternatives. Either I could rip it to school and be on time and ignore everyone on the road or I could take my time and practice being a good social driver. I decided to fullfill my obligation and practice good driving skills. It was my fault for over-sleeping and to avoid the same problem in the future I need to make sure I plan better.

So on the way to school I focused totally on the way I was driving. I made sure not to offend anybody and I put a smile on a couple of people's faces by waving and smiling. After parking my car, I felt really good for not thinking of myself first. I was really sure that today would be a good one.

Because I didn't speed, I learned two valuable lessons that have huge implications for traffic psychology.

The first is time management. If I can't afford to have a nice leisurely drive to school each day then I am not managing my time well. Basically, I need to make sure I plan ahead so things will be a lot easier for me, not only when I'm driving, but in everything I do.

The second implication involves thinking of your fellow man, or woman. We are highly egocentric beings that perhaps need to stop being so. By thinking about others first, hopefully others will start thinking about you. It feels good when you try to be polite, considerate, and giving. It feels even better when your on the recieving end. The more people we have looking out for each other the better. Imagine if you always had a fellow "bruddah" or "sistah" looking out for you? Wouldn't it be great?

Somehow, even though I was late to Japanese class, I knew I was going to have a good day. I managed my time well and tried to think of other people's thoughts and feelings before my own. After school, on the way to my car, I wondered if there was a strong correllation between the way I drove in the morning and the type of day I had.

I came to the conclusion that a person can and does use the feelings he or she experiences during driving as a catalyst to start the day. Subconsciously or consciously everyone carries feelings they experience throughout the day with them. Because driving for many of us is the first real "big" social interaction of the day, whether we like it or not our whole day can be influenced just by what happens during the time when we're driving.

Thus far, my driving makeover personality plan has turned out relatively well. I've learned four valuable lessons so far that can make me a better social driver:

So with these valuable lessons in mind I started the car and began my trip home. The whole way home I was attentive to those around me. Being aware made me feel good because I felt secure that I could handle any situation that were to come up. In my mind I was a giant sponge that could absorb anything which came my way.

As I was driving, a girl in a black Acura cut me off abruptly without even signaling. Instead of reacting like I normally do, which is yelling and giving her the bird, I was totally numb to the whole incident, it didn't even bother me. I thought to myself that in her mind she must have her reasons for cutting me off. As I pulled up behind her at the next stop, I waved and smiled at her. I guess she thought I was being sarcastic, but when I just kept smiling and making eye contact, I think she thought I was just really a nice guy. Hopefully in some way I hope I helped her out by cheering her up. Perhaps being nice to others on the road can be contagious and more people will do it?

Day 3: Wednesday October 18, 1995

Today as I awoke, I was feeling really insecure. I had two tests today, one for Japanese, and the other for Animal Learning. Because I didn't study much, the self confidence for me just wasn't there. I realized immediately that I should have studied harder. But since I overestimated my intelligence and underestimated the material, I didn't know everything like I was supposed to. As I started the car and began to drive, I could definitely feel the insecurity affecting me. Things which normally wouldn't bother me irritated the heck out of me today. On top of this, I felt a dire need to prove to others that I was superior. So like a teenager, I began to speed and drive with reckless abandon. Before you knew it, I reached the parking structure and had to park the car.

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