Researchers from MIT and Berkley have conducted a rather interesting study on the correlation between posture and behavior. While this normally wouldn’t be of much interest, the study analyzed more specifically how a car’s seating position can affect the driver’s behavior, which we find to be a rather interesting hypothesis.
The study conducted four experiments, although only the last two interest us. The gist is that expansive posture and positioning often led to unethical or dishonest behavior, such as noticing, accepting and not mentioning overpayment as well as cheating on tasks.
In particular, the third experiment focused on how a driver’s seating position influences their driving style. The researchers plopped participants down, not in a real vehicle on a public road or closed track, but in a desk chair, in front of a monitor and a Playstation 3, with a copy of Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit playing. Using a $90 gaming steering wheel, participants were allowed one practice run before the actual race. If they completed the race in under five minutes, they’d win $10, with one major caveat: they’d be forced to stop for ten seconds after each impact or collision. Seating positions were randomly chosen for each participant, with some in a contracted and some in an expansive position. The study also took a trip into the real world to record the correlation between double parking, vehicle size and the amount of room drivers had.
The results? Drivers with more expansive driving positions drove more recklessly in Need For Speed, while they were also more likely to double park, regardless of the length and difficulty that came with parking their vehicles (which researchers accounted for).
Now, we’re not scientists, but a number of things stand out here that have us wondering how credible these findings are. In the third experiment, it can’t seriously be believed that a three-year-old, arcade-minded racing game with a cheap steering wheel and a one-monitor setup is an accurate replica of a real cockpit, right? People, regardless of driving position, tend to drive far more recklessly in video games because the sole consequence is having to press the Reset button (or in this case, miss out on $10). Death, lawsuit or severe bodily injury, on the other hand, are always there when driving in the real world.
As for the fourth study, it was conducted in the heart of New York City, a place where parking spots and driving manners are just rumors and whispers, with little evidence of either. We’d have to believe that if someone found one of these mystical parking spots, they’d be far more concerned about just getting their car in it – regardless of their vehicle type – because they’ve been driving around the city for three hours looking for a spot. Click over for the full research paper, and let us know what you think of the study in Comments.