Here's Why Pessimists Need to Wear Their Seat Belts

They're more accident prone, study suggests
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 24, 2016 10:36 AM CST
   (Mark Reis/The Gazette via AP)

(Newser) – Are you a glass-half-full person or a glass-half-empty one? If you're the latter, you may be more prone to car accidents. Chinese researchers have found a correlation between "negativity bias" in drivers (the tendency to focus on what's bad) and propensity for car accidents, Pacific Standard reports. "Drivers with strong negativity biases reported having been involved in more crashes compared with the less-biased drivers," the study authors write in PLoS One. While other studies have shown that angry or anxious drivers are more likely to get into an accident, previous researchers "have not explored the relationship between emotional information processing and driving behavior," according to the Chinese researchers.

Here's how the experiment worked:

  • Researchers recruited 38 drivers with at least three years' experience.
  • The drivers were split into two groups—23 safe drivers and 15 dangerous drivers—based on driving-record penalty points accrued during the previous year.
  • Participants were asked to identify whether a photograph had a red or blue border; the images inside those borders were meant to evoke negative, positive or neutral emotions.
Drivers in the dangerous group took a bit longer (a few hundredths of a second) to identify the color of the border when the image was negative, per Pacific Standard, which writes that the negativity bias "strongly correlated with the number of crashes each driver had been in during the previous three years." Negativity bias was not detected in the safe drivers' group. "The influence of negativity bias provides one possible explanation for the effects of individual differences on dangerous driving behavior and traffic crashes," the researchers write. (In Florida, this motorist mom fought off carjackers to protect her kids).

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