brad k. sends word of a colorado state study linking bumper stickers to road rage. territoriality is the hypothesized mechanism. here’s the newsweek synopsis, with a link to the authors and article:

As scientists led by Lucy Troup and her student William Szlemko of Colorado State University report in the June issue of the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, it’s a simple matter of territoriality. Researchers have long known that drivers who have a strong sense of personal space while in their vehicle are more likely to be road-ragers, and the more someone plasters his vehicle with bumper stickers and decals the more territorial he feels about the space inside.

and a few lines from the abstract:

Aggressive driving may occur when social norms for defending a primary territory (i.e., one’s automobile) become confused with less aggressive norms for defending a public territory (i.e., the road). Both number of territory markers (e.g., bumper stickers, decals) and attachment to the vehicle were significant predictors of aggressive driving.

when i pitched this story to the contexts board as a possible discoveries piece, i was asked whether the sentiment expressed on the bumper sticker made any difference. apparently not. while the number of stickers is highly predictive, the researchers found no evidence that visualize whirled peas was any less dangerous than they’ll have to pry my AK-47 from my cold dead fingers.

i suppose territoriality is a reasonable explanation, though my first thought was that badges, posters, stickers, and t-shirts are expressions of extroversion, which might be directly linked to externalizing behaviors such as bird-flippin’ and roadside dukers.

but now i’m buying the researchers’ argument and thinking it might be territoriality after all — i’ve been driving much more aggressively since the arrival of those ICUDV8 license plates.