“Not Only Assholes Drive Mercedes”, Study Says

Yup, that’s the title of the study. We didn’t make that up. With a slight twist to the chicken and egg question, researchers from the University of Helsinki had set out to find out: Do luxury cars make jerks of the drivers or are jerks drawn to luxury cars?

Surely you must have had your share of seeing drivers in a Mercedes, BMW, Audi or the like cutting you off in traffic, running red lights, not giving way to pedestrians and speeding—or maybe you are even one of them. Social psychology professor, Jan-Erik Lönnqvist, noticed that more often than not, these aggressive drivers were behind the wheel of luxury German cars.

While past research already supported the idea that luxury car drivers are more likely to break traffic laws, Lönnqvist wanted to know whether the root cause (or is that “rude” cause?) was the car or the driver.

1,892 car owners in Finland were surveyed regarding their car models, wealth and consumption habits, and personality traits using the Five-Factor Model: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism.

The researchers, who were from the university’s School of Social Science, found that drivers with personality traits that we deem disagreeable also have an affinity for cars associated with high status. But they are not the only “assholes” who like nice cars. The research found that people who are respectable, ambitious, reliable and organised also like them.

So, conscientious men and women like high-status cars. But the research found that only male jerks like the same. The self-centred female, the researchers suggest, don’t view cars as status symbols as their male counterpart do.

Lönnqvist did point out that this may apply to the Finnish culture only, which is a largely egalitarian society and where a nice car really stands out. But if this writer might venture her own guess, where she comes from is a highly inequitable society and where the distinction between the haves and haves-not are that much clearer, making luxury car ownership a real show of wealth and status. And this makes the jerks behind the wheels of luxury cars all that much worse.

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