BRISBANE drivers are less likely to show politeness to other motorists of the same sex, especially if they aren’t being watched by other passengers, a new study suggests.
University of Queensland researchers said their study showed manners were not yet dead, but envy, jealousy and peer pressure influenced how kind people were on the roads.
Researchers studied how drivers treated each other at three intersections where motorists travelling along a congested main road could choose to let in a commuter trying to enter from a side street.
After observing 959 interactions between drivers, researchers found nearly 40 per cent of motorists sacrificed a few seconds to allow a fellow commuter into their lane.
When the waiting motorist was female, men were 22 per cent more altruistic than women in deciding whether to let them in.
Women were 15 per cent more likely to stop for a driver if the other commuter was male, compared with their likelihood of letting in another woman.
The study suggested drivers were also reluctant to show kindness to those with better cars.
Higher-status drivers had an 18 per cent lower chance of being let in by low-status motorists, which researchers said showed “the presence of envy, or jealousy, within society”.
Although people driving Jeeps and large vehicles were 14 per cent less likely than standard car owners to make way for fellow motorists, they were inclined to help those with similar vehicles.
Peer pressure also played a big role.
The study showed motorists displayed kindness to other motorists in more than 50 per cent of cases when other passengers were present in their car but “act a lot more ‘selfishly’ otherwise”.
“If there’s someone else sitting in the vehicle the drivers are about 25 per cent more likely to make a sacrifice or stop for others, which is a big effect statistically,” UQ PhD student Redzo Mujcic said.
“We call this peer pressure, or the shame effect, where you want to look good in front of your friends.
“It could be your friend, work colleague or a family member.”
Researchers also observed a tendency to “follow the leader” with motorists seeming to replicate the kindness shown by others in front of them.
Drivers were studied during peak times at the corner of Leicester Street and Old Cleveland Road at Coorparoo, the intersection of Carl and Cornwall streets at Woolloongabba, and the turn-left lane from Lewisham Street into Ridge Street at Greenslopes.
Mr Mujcic said he was unsurprised that envy influenced behaviour on the roads.
“To us that’s quite normal and it makes sense because people compare themselves all the time to others,” he said.
“We found that for example if there’s a high-status car waiting, for example a brand-new BMW, and I’m driving a cheap car, I don’t stop for them as often because I envy them.”
Overall, a slightly higher percentage of men than women stopped to let in vehicles, but the difference was not statistically significant.
Older drivers tended to be more altruistic than young ones.
The study, conducted jointly with UQ Professor of Economics Paul Frijters, was published in a German Institute for the Study of Labour paper.
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