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A recent study found that men who simply play racing games and then get behind the wheel of a real car tend to take more risks, display more aggression toward other motorists and generally drive like they're trying to cross some imaginary finish line before everyone else. Or, like the other cars are cheating by teleporting right behind him even when he knew he was way ahead
Have you ever known anyone who thought they were awesome at something when, in reality, they sucked very, very badly? Even when all their friends told them they sucked? And their mother told them they sucked? You've got the guy at the office who still insists he could play in the NFL, the shrieking girl on karaoke night who is sure she could sing professionally if she chose to...
It's possible that those poor souls are living in the shadow of the Dunning-Kruger effect. Cornell psychologists Justin Kruger and David Dunning describe this phenomenon as someone being "unskilled and unaware," meaning they have a specific short circuit in their brains that makes them suck at figuring out they suck.
The primary need of every human is to feel safe and secure. Once those needs are met, it really frees us up to concentrate on other more important things, like changing lanes without looking, tailgating other drivers and leaning on our horn during a traffic jam just to alert other drivers that we're displeased with the situation.
Everybody has an acceptable level of risk, and scientists say we try to keep risk at the same acceptable level in any situation. This sort of makes sense until you realize that if your risk level is too low, you will actually engage in riskier behavior to compensate.
The human body produces a protein called BDNF which is responsible for maintaining the health of our synapses. Scientists refer to this function as neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to renew itself and retain information.
Driving, being one of those tasks that requires attention, decision-making and good motor skills, depends heavily on this. Good drivers' brains have high levels of BDNF production which allow them to learn faster and perform better during tasks that require advanced motor function. Bad drivers, sadly, do not.
Anyway, according to scientists at the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, a nice big whiff of something nasty can induce feelings of hostility, cause you to drive more aggressively and increase your chances of being involved in an accident.
And secondly, smells are processed by the limbic system in your brain, which also governs emotions and long-term memories. A foul odor can evoke any number of long-buried memories and the emotions that come with them. The smell of rotting garbage may bring back memories of that year you lived in a dumpster.
According to psychologist Dr. Leon James children are also quite the little assimilators of our driving habits as well. He has postulated that a childhood of riding with parents who do inconsiderate things--like screaming obscenities, following too closely, attempting vehicular homicide--has a profound effect on the way that we will drive in the future. In other words, if your parents were ______ behind the wheel, it's a good bet you will be too.
Ask a cop how much he likes the Fast and the Furious franchise. He'll be torn between his love for Vin Diesel and the way street racing deaths doubled the year the first film came out. Think it's ridiculous when panicked moral crusaders talk about how movies influence our youth? Tell that to members of the LAPD who have to do extra patrols around theaters showing Fast and Furious sequels just to keep teenagers from squealing off into the distance and smashing head-on into a tanker truck.