Personal versus situational factors in the elicitation of anger


Mesken, J.




In this study, the elicitation of anger was examined in hypothetical traffic scenarios. It was hypothesised that the occurrence and strength of anger varies as a function of three factors: goal congruence, personal interaction and task demands. Also, the relationship between anger on the one hand and reactions to the same events on the other hand was examined. Respondents (n = 224) were presented with 8 traffic scenarios which were either goal congruent or goal incongruent, involved either personal interaction with other road users or not, and in which task demands were either high or low. After each scenario, respondents were asked to rate how angry they would be in this situation, and what would be their most likely reaction to the traffic situation. Also, questions regarding trait anger and trait anxiety were asked. Results showed that reported anger was strongest in situations which were goal incongruent and involved interaction with other road users. Goal congruent events led mostly to positive reactions if the event was not personal. Goal incongruent events led mostly to negative reactions (negative facial behaviour and negative gesture) if the event was personal. Goal incongruent events also led to a positive reaction: this was the case only when the event was not personal. The reaction reported most in this situation is driving with increased concentration. These results show that interpersonal factors are more important for the occurrence of anger in traffic than situational factors. Therefore, measures that decrease traffic density to prevent aggression, for example, may not be as successful as expected and measures directed at the way people interpret other people’s behaviour may deserve more attention.

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Report number

Report ECTRI 2003-03

Published in

Proceedings of the ECTRI - FERSI Young Researchers' Seminar, 16-18 December 2003, Bron, France, organized by the European Conference of Transport Research Institutes ECTRI and the Forum of European Road Safety Research Institutes FERSI




European Conference of Transport Research Institutes ECTRI, Bron, France


16-18 December 2003, Bron, France