Women behind the wheel are more intolerant than men: neuroscience says so

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A study conducted with sensors and cameras revealed that the feeling that males have most behind the wheel is “joy”. Females experience “more negative emotions in situations where they are not in control while driving”.

Women behind the wheel, statistics say, cause fewer accidents than men. Paradoxically, however, women are more intolerant of traffic, road conditions and navigator directions. “Let’s say – try to summarize Alessia Dorigoni, 34-year-old researcher at the Consumer Neuroscience Laboratory – that research has shown that women experience more negative emotions than men in situations in which they are not in control while driving”. The Laboratory is directed by Nicolao Bonini and is part of the Department of Economics and Management headed by Flavio Bazzana.

The analyzes were carried out using the Affectiva system of the iMotions platform which refers to the Swedish group Smart Eye mounted on a Land Rover Discovery Sport.

Conversely, men show positive emotions while driving: the car is a pleasure for them. These are not impressions, but scientific surveys obtained thanks to cameras that measure eye movements and sensors that measure the galvanic response of the skin (the emotional measurement based on perspiration) and the heartbeat: “Sensors give guarantees on the responses and they are more reliable than questionnaires, which have two limitations”, argues Dorigoni. “Answers can be distorted because the interviewees can fall into what in the literature is called ‘social desirability’, i.e. comply with what they believe to be the requests of the researchers and then people don’t always have adequate introspective ability and don’t always manage to verbalize the their emotions,” explains the researcher.

Women and men are united behind the wheel by sensations of surprise and disgust (30% among females and 21% among males) in traffic, but while anger was also recognized in the former (29%), joy prevailed in the latter (even 41%).

The automotive industry is increasingly linked to neuroscience, as confirmed by the adoption of the fatigue detector, which evaluates the reactions of drivers and signals not only the need to stop, but also anticipates the triggering of the safety systems. “Eye movements, facial expressions, head nodding and more are objective manifestations that can be analyzed scientifically,” the researcher points out.

In the automotive industry, neurosciences also have applications in marketing as demonstrated by an interesting study conducted on viewers of five advertising videos relating to a vehicle. The research showed that attention was unconsciously focused on the movement of the wheels. An attitude could help explain why, especially in car facelifts, rims are always given great importance.

In the phase of approaching autonomous driving, neurosciences play an important role in examining the reactions of motorists: “There is an essential triangulation between the driver, the car and the surrounding environment – underlines Dorigoni – and the elaboration of the algorithms serves to understand the reactions of man so that the errors of the latter are minimized ”. With autonomous driving instead, the driver’s error will be completely removed leaving full control to the machine and its algorithms, studied by man. At least at the moment it is not known what the reference parameters are: it is no coincidence that in Germany, where an Ethics Commission has been set up, theologians and philosophers have also dealt with it.

“We would need a sort of ‘automotive Esperanto’, a road and automotive language that is as universal as possible, even if everything will be studied with the aim of minimizing the damage”, explains the researcher. It remains to be understood who will be responsible for any accidents given that if the car is self-driving it cannot be unloaded on the driver. But this does not belong to the neurosciences.

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