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Thread: What does your car say about you?

  1. #1
    R.I.P. 2015-05-13 minir's Avatar
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    Question What does your car say about you?

    Me and my love machine
    What does your car say about you? Our correspondent gives us a new steer on the psychology of driving.

    Simon Crompton
    I haven’t experienced anything like it since my driving test. Not only is every manoeuvre and mirror glance being assessed by the man sitting next to me, but so is my psyche. Professor Andrew Blake, a social scientist specialising in driving habits, is doing with me what he did with the subjects in a new study on the psychology of driving: watching me, and casually asking me revealing little questions such as: “What sort of car would you ideally like?” as we go along.

    Being the sort of man who is unwilling/ unable to talk and negotiate cyclists at the same time, this is a challenge in itself. But, in a car I’ve never driven before, a shiny new BMW 1-Series, it’s daunting. I don’t like telling him that I’ve never been too keen on BMWs – I’m much happier with a Triumph Spitfire for my kicks (he says later that people who drive two-seaters are saying “F*** off” to society) and a Ford Mondeo to get the family around.

    The new report, commissioned by BMW, helps to explain why cars mean so much to us. There are more than 30 million cars on British roads but they are no longer just vehicles: they are our homes, even extensions of ourselves. We think of them as lounges, refuges and “objects of emotion”, according to the study, based on interviews with 90 men and women drivers.

    Dr Peter Marsh, a psychologist from the Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC), says in the report out next week: “Driving can represent an everyday escape in the sense that the car absolves the driver of any other responsibility to be anything more than a driver for the duration of the drive.” Half of those questioned valued the car as a refuge so much that they spoke of relishing the isolation of the daily commute.

    This might bring some problems with it. If cars are prized objects of pleasure, and refuges from the outside world, who can blame us if we don’t respond very well to people telling us what to do in them? “It’s very difficult to tell people, say, not to speed in a 30mph area, because the car is being evolved into an object based around individual pleasure,” says Professor Blake, the associate head of the School of Social Sciences, Media and Cultural Studies at the University of East London.

    “If you’re going to address issues about controlling driving and traffic,” says Professor Blake, “and how to make people more socially responsible about car use, you’re also going to have to start understanding the psychological connections that these objects of desire are setting up in individuals.”

    Other commentators have already noted that cars create a sense of “emotional territory”. Leon James, a professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii, is an expert on road rage and says that we feel angry when we sense our territory is being invaded. “We are in our castle and feel we are on the frontier,” he says. “And if you look at car commercials they tend to encourage this ‘we can go where no one else has gone’ mentality.” The more cars are tied to ideas of individual freedom and self-esteem, the more they promote defensiveness and territoriality. The result, he says, is that people feel repeatedly insulted while they drive, provoking aggressive reactions to routine incidents.

    The stresses of modern life, and driving itself, don’t help. A recent survey by Trafficmaster found that 42 per cent of drivers feel stressed at the wheel, rating it generally higher than the pressures of money and work. That’s why car companies argue that making their products places of calm is definitely a good thing.

    Personally, I’ve always felt that a little bit of stress while driving is a good thing, and despite my cocooning BMW I’m still none too relaxed under Professor Blake’s scrutiny. He says that I’m a defensive driver – meaning that I’m safety conscious – and that I seem to be very nonconfrontational. To order, a lorry heads up a single-lane road towards me, refusing to pull over, and my inner caveman kicks in with some fruity language as I back up to let him pass. “The significant thing is that you backed up rather than having a confrontation,” he says. “It’s common for men to be very courteous but also nondefensive,” he points out. “There’s a lot of courtesy in men waving to each other and thanking each other, but that can easily lead into a duel if they perceive that someone has broken the rules.”

    At the end of our jaunt, in my driveway, Professor Blake tells me that the fact I didn’t push the car made me an “instrumentalist” (see box, right) rather than an “expressive”. On the other hand, the fact that I was a controlled driver and liked cars that did one job at a time (Spitfire for thrills, Mondeo for family ferrying) made me an expressive. So, schizophrenic then.

    “Let me watch you as you get out,” he says, rushing to the driver side, as I extract myself, puzzled. “You glanced back,” he asserts as I walk away from the car. “I saw you looking back at the car as you walked away. It shows you admire it.” I huff, considering that I also look back at the Mondeo thinking “I must fix those loose window seals”. But, surprised at myself, I admit to him that there’s something in me that wanted to continue driving that newfangled BMW. “You’ve bonded,” he says.

    What kind of driver are you? How you approach driving can indicate your personality type, according to the Cambridge Strategy Centre, which analyses consumers according to psychoanalytic types. The world can be divided, it says, into “instrumentalists” and “expressives”, both of which have emotional connections with their cars. But, while the instrumentalist sees the car as a sentient almost living entity that they must try to control, the expressive sees it as a rational piece of machinery they must adapt to their needs. Which one are you?


    Often have names for their cars.

    Tolerate failings or idiosyncracies in cars.

    Subconsciously believe that cars respond in an emotional rather than a rational way.

    Are affectionate about a car’s failings, but can be frightened that they are not in control of the technology.

    Tend to prefer cars that cater for different needs at the same time; for example, sporty saloons.


    See cars as a tool to explore their competence.

    Drive at high speed when the opportunity presents.

    Regard journeys as a test of man and machine.

    Prize being able to corner with precision.

    Only want the controls that are necessary – but like to customise.

    Prefer one type of car for one job: a sports car or a saloon.

    Men, women and beautiful wheels Are you having a deep relationship with your car? No? Well, have you named it? And how do you feel about other people touching it?


    Researchers have found that men are less comfortable discussing feelings about people than women, but when it comes to describing feelings about cars, men are more comfortable than women. Psychologists believe this is because men are less conscious of their own bodies than women, which makes their sense of “self” more easily disengaged from their bodies, and projected on to objects. This identification with objects may explain why men often describe their car as an extension of themselves, and why they get angry when others touch their cars. It may also explain why women (who see cars as separate entities) are more likely to give cars names.


    About 60 per cent of drivers drive with one hand on the wheel. For most men, the other hand was resting on the gear stick. For women, it was more often held in the lap. According to the driving researcher Professor Andrew Blake, driving with one hand is an indication of mastery of the car, that you see it as an extension of yourself.


    The researchers found that generally men assume they will sit in the driving seat, unless things are arranged otherwise. Family members always tend to take the same seats. Families spoke of a sense of “strangeness” if a parent sat in the back.

    “I think the fact that Mum and Dad always have their backs to the kids gives the children a psychological advantage: more potential for unseen misbehaviour,” said one dad.

  2. #2
    Second Most EVIL YARDofSTUF's Avatar
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    Nov 2000
    My car doesnt say **** cuz it knows I keep my pimp hand strong!

  3. #3
    Tortoises R0cks :D Rivas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by YARDofSTUF View Post
    My car doesnt say **** cuz it knows I keep my pimp hand strong!
    To be human is to choose.

    It is better to die on your feet
    than to live on your knees.

    - Emiliano Zapata

  4. #4
    HS's Proctologist triniwasp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by YARDofSTUF View Post
    My car doesnt say **** cuz it knows I keep my pimp hand strong!
    And how exactly do you keep it strong?
    Feelings about religion: I believe in a dogma-free personal Prime Mover.

  5. #5
    Second Most EVIL YARDofSTUF's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by triniwasp View Post
    And how exactly do you keep it strong?
    By smacking hos.

  6. #6
    R.I.P. 2018-07-16 RoundEye's Avatar
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    In a dry but moldy New Orleans, Louisiana
    Mine says "wash me".
    Sliding down the banister of life ..........................

  7. #7
    Junior Member
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    Jan 2009
    My car gives me power and freedom to roam and relax. I usually do some spirited driving from time to time and it's a stress reliever really.

  8. #8
    SG Elite
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    Awesome bump.

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