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Vehicular stereotyping mpa 2010

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Vehicular stereotyping mpa 2010

  1. 1. Revisiting the Traits Commonly Associated with Vehicle Stereotypes University of Texas at San Antonio Psychology Department . Robert Fuhrman, Ph.D., Jarryd Willis, B.A., Michael Anthony, M.S. ABSTRACT This study investigated the stability of various vehicle stereotypes and trait inferences over a 11-year period. College-aged participants in 1998 and 2009 completed questionnaires that included 32 trait ratings for 11 different classes of vehicles. Drivers of minivans, sedans, and economy cars were rated favorably, while drivers of sports cars, pickups, and SUVs were rated negatively. This pattern replicates Anthony & Fuhrman (1999) and indicates that vehicle stereotypes have remained stable across the 11-year period. INTRODUCTION Imagine you are at Wal-Mart and the two shortest check-out lines are comprised of three customers. The clerk of one line is slow but very attractive, while the other clerk is unattractive but very fast. The interaction goal you have at the time will impact your appraisal of them and subsequent decision: if you have time then you may wait for the attractive clerk, but if you’re in a hurry you will opt for the unattractive clerk. We try to predict people using the most salient categorical information and utilize stereotypes whenever we can. It reduces the cognitive effort needed to apply expectations and react quickly in an otherwise complex environment. We do the same thing while driving, even though the context does not allow us to control for the three big stereotypes of age, ethnicity, and gender. We still retrieve our categorical knowledge of Minivans from long-term memory, activating the indiscriminate assumption that this Minivan will be just as slow as so many others, and make the decision to speed past them before they merge. At the same time, the trait inferences we use for Sports Car leads us to comfortably let them merge in front of us. Interestingly, we would feel the most mental discomfort behind a fast Minivan rather than a slow Minivan, and behind a slow Sports Car rather than being tail-gated by a fast Sports Car. This suggests that we’re using specific attributes build vehicular trait inferences in the driving context. This cross-sectional study investigated the stability of these inferences after an 11 year period. The previous study found that the drivers of minivans, common sedans, and small economy cars were rated most favorably (usually in terms of traits such as friendliness and conscientiousness), while the drivers of sports cars, pickups, and SUVs were rated most negatively (usually in terms of traits such as aggressive and reckless). METHODS 150 male and female undergraduate from UTSA completed questionnaires that included 32 trait ratings for each of the 11 different classes of vehicles. The vehicle categories and traits were identical to the 1998 study. A 7-point scale was used, ranging from 1 (not at all descriptive) to 7 (extremely descriptive). RESULTS Similar to the previous study, the average ratings for all 32 traits were calculated for each vehicle category and the five highest trait ratings for each category were identified and ranked. Subsequently, an overall rating for each category was calculated from these give traits and the top 3 vehicle categories that exhibited the most extreme positive and negative ratings were identified and ranked. Table 1 lists these six vehicles and their highest trait ratings from the previous 1998 study. DISCUSSION Over the past decade, several significant national and global events have taken place which have shifted the social and cultural values we held at the apex of the 20 th century. The ‘Blink’-type cognitive decisions made in the driving context do not afford us the use of the three main stereotypes of gender, ethnicity, and age. We therefore use stereotypes based on the traits we have associated with vehicles through previous experience and socio-cultural beliefs. The results of this study show that these lower-level stereotypes change in symmetry with socio-cultural shifts. While the “Everything’s Bigger in Texas” tagline could have been applied to each state in the 1990’s, that attitude and the perception of large vehicles, such as the Hummer, faded in the wake of the oil crisis during the Iraq War. In contrast, the perception of economy cars, such as the Toyota Prius, rose in symmetry with the rise of gas prices to $5 a gallon. The fact that Exxon was the top Fortune 500 company in 2009 is a further indicator of how the socio-cultural climate can cause people’s stereotypes to fluctuate in a self-serving manner. Shifts in the trait ratings of other vehicles appear more indicative of assimilation between vehicles rather than the result of a greater cultural influence. For example, Sedans are not perceived in as positive a light as they used to be; inversely, Sports Cars are not cast in as negative a light as they used to be. Furthermore, SUVs are not seen as negatively as they were in 1998. It may be that sedans and sports cars are being seen as similar and it depends more on the driver. Finally, SUVs may have grown into the new ‘family’ vehicle and popular alternative to the Minivan. We are currently investigating the specific behaviors that may be associated with each of the driver stereotypes, and, perhaps most importantly, how a person’s own behavior toward another driver may be influenced by an over reliance on these stereotypes. REFERENCES Anthony, M. K. (1998). The Underlying Dimensions of Vehicle Stereotypes. Anthony, M. K., & Fuhrman, R. W. (1999, April). You are what you drive: The trait dimensions underlying 11 vehicle categories. Paper presented at the 1999 Midwestern Psychological Association Convention, Chicago. Fiske, S.T., Cuddy, A. J. C., Glick, P. (2007). Universal dimensions of social cognition: warmth and competence. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Department of Psychology Department of Psychology   Positive Traits   Negative Traits Vehicles Type 1998 2009   1998 2009 Minivan 5.30 5.01   2.97 3.13 Sedan 4.99 4.74   3.46 3.78 Large Utility 4.90 3.58   3.79 5.15 Economy 4.67 5.22   7.31 3.28 Small Pickup 4.36 4.47   4.14 3.91 SUV 4.25 4.42   4.56 4.32 Large Pickup 4.04 6.32   4.56 4.94 Sports Car 3.44 3.69   5.45 5.59

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