Not only that, they are “argumentative, stubborn, disagreeable and unempathetic.”
Each time I see drivers’ most offensive conduct, they’re always in BMWs, Mercedes or Audis. It is not a new phenomenon; I wrote about it a couple of years ago and with new research I am writing here again now.
Now a recent research (which we can not explicitly reference in this blog title, because it contradicts our rules) confirms our biases. A Finnish social psychology professor found that “Audi and BMW drivers were much more likely to violate traffic laws and drive recklessly.” He’s quoted in the Helsinki University newsletter:
“I had noticed that the ones most likely to run a red light, not give way to pedestrians and generally drive recklessly and too fast were often the ones driving fast German cars,” says Jan-Erik Lönnqvist of the University of Helsinki’s Swedish School of Social Science.
Audis do parking/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0
Lönnqvist asked a lot of questions about why people are attracted to these cars and what kind of people they were, conducted by recording cars on the street.
To gain answers, researchers carried out a study of Finnish consumers. A total of 1,892 car owners answered not only questions about their car, consumption habits and wealth, but also questions exploring personality traits. The answers were analysed using the Five‐Factor Model, the most widely used framework for assessing personality traits in five key domains (openness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness). The answers were unambiguous: self-centred men who are argumentative, stubborn, disagreeable and unempathetic are much more likely to own a high-status car such as an Audi, BMW or Mercedes.
But what’s most important is that the finding in the previous research was that “many rich people have a sense of entitlement and don’t think the laws apply to them,” that becoming rich makes them jerks. Lönnqvist arrives at a different conclusion: first, they were jerks, who got rich.
He points out that money is, of course, necessary to buy high-status products, which is why rich people are more likely to drive high-status cars. “But we also found that those whose personality was deemed more disagreeable were more drawn to high-status cars. These are people who often see themselves as superior and are keen to display this to others.”
Mercedes do crosswalks/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0
This argument is reinforced by the fact that another category likes to drive expensive cars: people who are wealthy but also “respectful, competent, efficient and well-organized,” and where the jerks are all guys, the types of conscience belong to both sexes. This is where I think his theory is breaking down; it’s not looking at how these responsible and diligent styles really operate. Lots of ladies in BMW’s cut me off. Lönnqvist, who has been a modern-day Thorstein Veblen, concludes:
It would be great if consumers had other, sustainable ways of showing their status rather than the superficial consumption of luxury goods that often has negative consequences. We are already seeing that driving an electric car is becoming something of a status symbol, whereas SUVs with their high emissions are no longer considered as cool.
Sadly I’ve seen so many jerks in Teslas; it attracts both the diligent and the bad. Perhaps we can sell them on very luxurious e-bikes.
I hope you don’t become one like these people with luxury cars when you have one.
Written by Lloyd Alter
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