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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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June 17, 2008

Sticker shock

William Szlemko, a social psychologist from Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, has a warning for drivers: Watch out for cars with bumper stickers.

His research found that “drivers of cars with bumper stickers, window decals, personalized license plates and other ‘territorial markers’ not only get mad when someone cuts into their lane or is slow to respond to a traffic light, they also are far more likely than others to use their vehicles to express rage—by honking, tailgating and other aggressive behavior.”

OK, maybe my I.U. decal in the back window might make me a little more aggressive during basketball season. But my horn only gets used when I lock my car.

Szlemko and his colleagues believe drivers with road rage tend to think of roads as “my street” and “my lane.” Drivers who individualize their cars see them as deeply personal space or primary territory.

Supposedly it doesn’t even matter if the stickers promote peace and love. Drivers with “Visualize World Peace” and “My Kid Is an Honor Student” are just as aggressive as those with “Don’t Mess With Texas” or “My Kid Beat Up Your Honor Student” on their bumpers. Really? Has an irate driver with a Christian fish symbol on the bumper ever cut you off?

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