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Article: Do road user roles serve as social identities? Differences between self-described cyclists and car drivers

SWOV researcher Hoekstra published the article 'Do road user roles serve as social identities? Differences between self-described cyclists and car drivers' in Transportation Research. Research in different domains has shown that people categorize oneself and others as ingroup ("us") and outgroup ("them") members, resulting in group-based stereotyping and attribution errors that may adversely affect social behaviour.

To determine whether such patterns also exist in road traffic, an experimental web-based survey was conducted using scenarios of unregulated traffic settings in which the type of other road user was varied (cyclist vs. car driver).

Results showed both self-described car drivers and cyclists reported having more in common with their ingroup than with their outgroup. Self-described car drivers were also least inclined to expect to be given right of way by cyclists as compared to car drivers, while selfdescribed cyclists were less inclined than self-described car drivers to expect car drivers to yield right of way. Self-described car drivers were more inclined to make dispositional attributions about cyclists’ rule breaking behaviour and less inclined to attribute these to circumstances compared to rule breaking on the part of car drivers, and were most inclined to disadvantage their outgroup compared to their ingroup in terms of raising traffic fines.

Since dispositional attributions are more likely to lead people to behave aggressively, the findings suggest that cyclists, who are arguably among those most dependent on the goodwill and forgivingness of drivers of motorised vehicles, may be less likely to receive it. This means that although both self-described cyclists and car drivers may distinguish between ingroups and outgroups in traffic, this distinction may have much more complicated implications than the simple terms "us" and "them" might imply.

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