A Look at How our Thoughts Influence Aggressive Driving

It has long been a mystery why aggressive and non-aggressive drivers handle hostile situations differently. Sundé Nesbit, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Northern Iowa, recently published an article in the Journal of Transportation Research examining this very question.  Specifically, Nesbit looked at the cognitions, or thoughts, of aggressive and non-aggressive drivers.

About the article, Nesbit wrote that, “I tend to view behavior (of any kind) as a consequence of how people think about and interpret their world.” This opinion was illustrated through Nesbit’s research as she questioned and surveyed participants about their past driving experiences, and how they would react in various driving situations. It was expected that the drivers who typically expressed their anger outwardly would be more likely to be aggressive drivers. Likewise, it was expected that those who were more able to control their anger would drive more safely.

Nesbit found that the data supported her hypothesis saying that, “The majority of participants in the higher aggression group had been in at least one collision (72%) and had received a speeding ticket (63%). In comparison, participants reporting fewer aggressive acts also reported fewer collisions (49%) and speeding tickets (34%).” In addition, it was found that those who were maladaptive thinkers were more likely to be aggressive drivers than those who laid out the consequences before they acted on a situation.

Clearly, the way we think and act regarding a certain situation, such as driving, can have an impact on the consequences of the situation. Nesbit believes that, “how we think about these situations (i.e., if we think about our driving circumstances and other drivers in a hostile and retaliatory way) will increase the likelihood that we will become angry and will react in aggressive ways while driving.” This research suggests that drivers should think positively about the provocations on the road, in order to prevent accidents and speeding citations. Remember, the way you think will most likely influence the way you act.

For questions about this research, contact Dr. Sundé Nesbit at sunde.nesbit@uni.edu.

By Timothy Zietz
Tim is a Psychology and Human Biology Major with a minor in Chemistry.  He plans on graduating in 2015 and attending medical school to obtain his MD and PhD and specializing in neurosurgery.


  1. The most important thing which I like about this post is its title. The title is very attractive and understandable. I totally agree with it. Our thoughts play an important role in every sphere of our life. By thinking positively and showing patience, aggressive driving can be stopped.

  2. Hi,

    I am running a “road rage reduction” program (or at least looking for funding thusfar).

    I want to have it run by “______ Dept of _____” at a local college somehow.
    Q: Do you have any thoughts on what type of GRAD/PROF/DEPT might be on board to help me run this program. (for some cash)


  3. Influence kind of works like “relationship XP” employing your Companion. As you build Influence developing a Companion, your Influence rank increase. Every time a Companion’s Influence ranks up, that Companion gains a scaling bonus to Presence which increases Companion damage, healing, and health together with bonuses to crew skill time efficiency and critical rate.

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