If car-drivers become arseholes because of deindividuation

… then why do single cyclists end up the same despite lacking most of the contributory conditions?

Re car road rage:

loss of self-awareness and along with it, individual accountability. This can happen in a number of different scenarios and contexts, but anonymity (perceived or real) is always a key ingredient

I’m not exactly anonymous, helmetless and mad-looking on my defective trolley, but I do turn into a right un.

cars, it turns out, work pretty much the same way as an identity-masking hood. In his book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do, journalist Tom Vanderbilt points out that while driving, people are surrounded by others (part of a group), and yet they’re also cut off (anonymous), enclosed in steel and glass shells.

In fact, when you look at Zimbardo’s description of conditions that contribute to a sense of deindividuation, it basically reads like a list of everyday road conditions. “Anonymity, diffused responsibility, group activity, altered temporal perspective, emotional arousal, and sensory overload are some of the input variables that can generate deindividuated reactions,” he says in the International Encyclopedia of Psychiatry, Psychology, Psychoanalysis, and Neurology.

To make matters worse, (as Vanderbilt points out), cars and modern freeways render drivers mute. That makes them mad. Behind the wheel, you’re stripped of the ability to communicate in all but the most primitive, non-nuanced ways (honking, hand gestures, and light flashing), while your identity gets reduced down to a brand of vehicle. (Seriously, is there anything worse than the driver of a late model BMW 3 Series?). When you combine all of these factors, you have a really potent recipe for rage and aggressive behavior.

Most of those are nos for me and most other arsehole cyclists flitting past. Any explanations that take account of both cyclists and car drivers? Do cyclists require a different explanation? Is my observation flawed?

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  1. (Seriously, is there anything worse than the driver of a late model BMW 3 Series?).

    – A Spanish Audi driver.

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