Why We Scream at Stupid Drivers: But Don't Scream at People Standing In Line Next To Us
Now let’s consider an honest question:
If that guy had maybe absentmindedly wandered in front of you in the line at the DMV, or maybe someone got out of control down the slopes coming into the line at the ski lift and got in front of you, would you be as likely to raise such a stink?
Unless you are the fightin’ type, the kind of billy bad boy who wants to fight everyone they see, then you are likely going to be like the vast majority of people and maybe mumble something under your breath, but that’s about as far as you are going to take things.
So the question is: why are we such lunatics behind the wheel, and nowhere near as contrary in person?
The danger threshold.
There is a correlational relationship between how likely we are to actually put ourselves in danger, and how likely we are to mouth off. In the DMV line, you are face to face with the unwise person whose actions have irritated you. If you were to have the same reaction as you did in the car – screaming profanity and waving your hands around like a loon – the possibility of you finding yourself in the throes of a knuckle sandwich delivery match suddenly becomes much more real. In the car, or even screaming at Tony Romo on the TV and telling him what an idiot he is, is much easier to do when we are safely removed from the possibility of danger. I’m no Dallas Cowboy, but I’d be willing to bet that Romo’s teammates aren’t screaming the type of insults that you are at him while they are on the sideline.
You might have noticed that females are much more likely to mouth off verbally at each other than males are. There’s a reason for that. Females are much less likely to have a physical altercation. So there danger threshold is reduced. Males aren’t so lucky. If we insult each other’s sexual promiscuity for example, we may actually have to fight each other, a prospect that we have learned to consider before the mouthing begins.
The Danger Threshold's prime directive is thus: there is an inverse relationship between your willingness to mouth off and the amount of danger said mouthing off is likely to cause you to encounter.
So next time you are banging your steering wheel and using words that are not grandma-approved, consider this article. It’s not that you are a coward, you are simply exercising your learned reactions within the framework of the danger threshold. So chill out road rage-aholics!
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