Anger-congruent behaviour transfers across driving situations

Amanda Stephens, John J A Groeger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

77 Citations (Scopus)


Anger and aggression on the road may sometimes appear unprovoked and unrelated to current driving circumstances. It is unclear whether such anger and aggression arises because of events prior to those circumstances in which anger is experienced and aggression is exhibited. In this study, time pressure and enforced following of a slowly moving vehicle were used to increase drivers' anger in order to assess whether affect and behaviour during a subsequent, non-provocative, drive would change accordingly. Ninety-six drivers drove twice in a simulated urban environment. During the first drive, oncoming traffic and a slowly moving lead vehicle required that half of the drivers travelled far slower than they would choose. During the second drive, drivers again followed slower vehicles and were required to respond to traffic events not encountered in the manipulation drive. Mood (Profile of Mood States) was assessed before and after each drive, and anger evaluations, arousal (heart rate) and behaviour (speed, lane position and collisions) were measured during drives. Anger increased and both mood and driving behaviour deteriorated in drivers exposed to slower lead vehicles, compared with control group drivers. These behavioural differences of speed and lane positioning carried over into the subsequent drive even to driving situations unlike those where provocation had previously occurred. Drivers who had previously been impeded later approached hazards with less caution, and attempted more dangerous overtaking manoeuvres. It is concluded that sometimes dangerous driving may result from anger provoked by circumstances other than those in which the behaviour is exhibited.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1423-1438
Number of pages16
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Anger
  • Driving behaviour
  • Mood

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