Are we always aggressive or only behind the wheel? Exploring differences and similarities through social information processing theory

Mariana Sebastião Machado • Cânddio da Agra • Carla Cardoso


Aggressive driving behavior • 
Aggression • 
Social information processing


Questions such as “Are people always aggressive?” or “Is it only inside the car?” have been studied in previous research. However, the focus is mostly on anger and anger expression and not on an interpersonal perspective. The current study aims to explore this gap in the research by analyzing aggressive driving behavior through the application of Social Information Processing Theory (SIP). For that purpose, the trait of aggression was compared with aggressive driving behavior and SIP patterns on and off the road. To achieve these goals, 562 Portuguese drivers completed a self-reported survey concerning trait aggression, aggressive driving behavior, and social information processing in various contexts. The results indicated that deficits in SIP positively correlate with aggressive behavior in daily and driving contexts. Secondly, the trait of aggression is positively correlated with aggressive driving behavior. Finally, SIP deficits in the daily context were also positively correlated with SIP deficits in the driving context. Nevertheless, significant differences were found between SIP variables in the daily context and the driving context. The results, implications, and limitations of the study are discussed.