The role of emotions and moods in traffic

Interim report of the first phase of a research project
Mesken, Jolieke
This report describes the first phase of the project ‘Emotions in Traffic’ which started in January 2001 as a collaboration project between the University of Groningen and SWOV Institute for Road Safety Research. Theoretical issues The concept of emotion is closely related to other concepts: mood and affect. Affect is generally used as an umbrella term for all kinds of affective states. Moods are thought to be more non-specific than emotions, and are thought to last longer than emotions. Emotions are thought to be intentional, meaning that they are directed towards an object, whereas moods are not. Emotions occur when a valued goal or concern is at stake. An event is cognitively evaluated or appraised by an individual, and it depends on this cognitive appraisal if, and if so, which emotion will occur. Effects of affective states Emotions may lead to thoughts and behaviour that affect performance on a range of tasks. Effects of emotions are shown in risk perception and risk taking behaviour, information processing, and memory. Stress, emotions and performance These effects of emotions on performance may be relevant for traffic participation, although research on this topic is limited. Some studies made a link between stress (an area closely related to the emotions) and task performance in traffic. However, the knowledge of the relations between stress and driving can be expanded if insights from the area of emotions are included. Emotions and driving The knowledge of the effects of emotions on thoughts and behaviour and the knowledge on the stress-performance relationship can be integrated to gain more knowledge of the relationship between emotions and task performance in traffic. Only a few studies focussed on emotion and traffic, and in most cases they were concerned with anger, and not with other emotions. These studies are reviewed. Methodological issues Research on emotions is complicated, not only because the concept is not clearly defined, but also because there are some methodological difficulties. One problem is experimentally inducing emotions. Several methods can be distinguished (e.g. showing film fragments or asking subjects to recollect an experience that caused emotions in the past) but their efficiency varies and it is difficult to tell how long the induced emotion lasts. Another methodological issue is the measuring of emotions. Three different methods can be distinguished: observing overt behaviour, physiological measures and self-reports. Each has advantages and disadvantages, so it is recommended that a combination of methods is used. Research plans Four general research questions are formulated: 1. Which are the determinants of emotions in traffic? 2. To what extent do emotions affect cognition? 3. To what extent do emotions affect the selection of action? 4. To what extent do emotions affect driving performance? Four experiments are designed to answer these questions. The first experiment is a questionnaire study in which possible determinants of emotions are studied. In the second and third experiment, emotional states are experimentally induced and the effects on cognitive processing and behaviour is studied in the laboratory. In the fourth one, experimental states are induced and the effects on actual driving performance are studied. In the last study (which is not a real experiment) written reports on aggressive incidents are qualitatively analysed.
Gepubliceerd door
SWOV, Leidschendam


Dit is een publicatie van SWOV, of waar SWOV een bijdrage aan heeft geleverd.