Eric Larson | 3 May 01:03 2000
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Psychology of the Car

There is an interesting book titled, “Driving Passion: The
Psychology of the Car” by Peter Marsh and Peter Collett, published by
Faber and Faber, Boston and London, 1986 Both authors are psychologists
who lay out the psychological motivations of cars in chapters titled
things like “Costume,” “Fashion,” “Jewelry,” “Uniform,” “Fantasy,”
“Icons,” “Weapon,” and “Thrill.”

They argue that the car should be viewed as a vehicle for expressing
psychological desires rather than a mode of transport. They argue that
efforts to simply replace the car with alternative modes of
transportation will inevitably fail because the car uniquely satisfies
psychological needs that cannot be met by busses, trains, electric cars,
walking, or bicycling.

I find their argument compelling. After spending many years trying
to construct rational arguments against cars and to measure the economic
costs of cars, I've come to realize that the cars proliferate not
because people like the mobility and access it provides. Far more
important is the sense of control, protection, independence, thrill,
success, and other desires that the car fills. Until these desires can
be satiated in some other way, the hegemony of the car will intact
despite all of the rational reasons for eliminating it. Those who
truly want to reduce cars need to find alternative ways to satisfy the
_desires_ that the car fulfills.

Eric

Simon Norton | 3 May 01:43 2000

psychology of cars

I don't think one needs to construct psychological reasons why the car is king.
Surely this is amply explained by the following:

1. The advantages of driving accrue exclusively to car users, while the
disadvantages are mainly visited on society at large, including people using
other modes of transport.

2. The industries associated with the car are profitable enough to be able to
buy government influence. 

3. In most of the industrialized world, efforts to make other modes of travel as
attractive as driving have been derisory.

While I dare say there are lots of people who use cars because they satisfy
psychological desires, there are lots of people for whom it is simply a means of
transport, but because of the lack of alternatives it is the only one they can
use.

Meanwhile can someone please examine the psychological harm caused by cars to
those who detest the pollution and danger they cause, and who just want a safe,
economical and convenient way of getting from A to B without the stress of
concentrating on the road. 

When can we expect to see a book showing that drug taking (legal or illegal)
satisfies deep seated desires and therefore there is no point in trying to
combat it ? More people die from the effects of cars than from any drug except
perhaps nicotine, with the qualification likely to go if one assesses the
effects of climate change. If the people who died were exclusively motorists I
fancy the psychological barriers to considering other modes of travel would
magically disappear.
(Continue reading)

Bill Volk | 3 May 01:54 2000
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RE: Psychology of the Car

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Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit

There's a sci-fi story about a future where the majority of the population
is just plain stupid ... and are supplied with autos limited to 30 mph ...
but supplied with sound effects and pitch controls to make them appear much
faster.

March of the Morons or somehthing.

Bill

There is an interesting book titled, “Driving Passion: The
Psychology of the Car” by Peter Marsh and Peter Collett, published by
Faber and Faber, Boston and London, 1986 Both authors are psychologists
who lay out the psychological motivations of cars in chapters titled
things like “Costume,” “Fashion,” “Jewelry,” “Uniform,” “Fantasy,”
“Icons,” “Weapon,” and “Thrill.”

They argue that the car should be viewed as a vehicle for expressing
psychological desires rather than a mode of transport. They argue that
efforts to simply replace the car with alternative modes of
transportation will inevitably fail because the car uniquely satisfies
psychological needs that cannot be met by busses, trains, electric cars,
walking, or bicycling.

I find their argument compelling. After spending many years trying
to construct rational arguments against cars and to measure the economic
costs of cars, I've come to realize that the cars proliferate not
because people like the mobility and access it provides. Far more
(Continue reading)

jym | 3 May 01:57 2000

Re: Psychology of the Car

> ... the car uniquely satisfies psychological needs that
> cannot be met by busses, trains, electric cars, walking, or
> bicycling.

=v= Are needs being satisfied or are neuroses simply being fed?
Considering everything that's needed to prop up the car -- an
extremely costly infrastructure with the bulk of its subsidies
hidden, the most massive and expensive and ubiquitous marketing
campaign in the world, and the heaviest environmental toll of
any human activity -- I can't help but conclude that "the car"
isn't what's satisfying.

=v= It also seems to me that Costume, Fashion, Jewelry, Uniform,
Fantasy, Icons, and Thrill could also be associated with the
bicycle (dunno about Weapon, but the Viet Cong might have a few
words on the subject).

> Far more important is the sense of control, protection,
> independence, thrill, success, and other desires that the car
> fills.

=v= One approach is to show how senseless this "sense" is.

=v= Control and independence? Driving a car is an arrangement
that involves obeisance to the nastiest corporations in the
world -- the very ones that market the things as the epitome of
freedom and independence. Most Americans sink 20% of their
income into their cars -- one working day a week!

=v= Protection? It's the most dangerous thing we have to deal
(Continue reading)

jym | 3 May 02:04 2000

Re: Psychology of the Car

> There's a sci-fi story about a future where the majority of
> the population is just plain stupid ... and are supplied with
> autos limited to 30 mph ... but supplied with sound effects
> and pitch controls to make them appear much faster.

=v= Way back in 1974, Ivan Illich calculated the real average
speed that people travel in cars. He included the time spent
working to earn the money to keep the cars running. He totalled
it up and concluded that motorists' average speed is 4 mph.

=v= So, the "just plain stupid" people of the future are almost
8 times more intelligent than we are. :^)
<_Jym_≥

Jym Dyer ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: __Q :::
jym@... ::::::::::::::::: "My other car is :: ==`\(x ::
http://www.things.org/~jym/ :::: also a bicycle." :: O-/ `O ::

"Could this record-breaking heat wave be the result of the
dreaded Greenhouse Effect? Well, if 70-degree days in the
middle of winter are the price of car pollution, you'll
forgive me if I keep my old Pontiac."
-- Kent Brockman, Springfield Action News

Neil Baker | 3 May 04:13 2000
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Re: Psychology of the Car


How did they meet those needs before cars came along. I think these
are needs that have been created by Detroit and the advertising
business with a little help from the government.

> They argue that the car should be viewed as a vehicle for expressing
> psychological desires rather than a mode of transport. They argue that
> efforts to simply replace the car with alternative modes of
> transportation will inevitably fail because the car uniquely satisfies
> psychological needs that cannot be met by busses, trains, electric cars,
> walking, or bicycling.
> 

Neil Baker
Why do I ride my bike to work?
Because I can!

Lorenzo L. Love | 3 May 04:13 2000
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Re: Psychology of the Car

"The Marching Morons" (1951) by C. M. Kornbluth.

Lorenzo L. Love
http://www.thegrid.net/lllove
"Neglect of an effective birth control policy is a never-failing source
of poverty which, in turn, is the parent of revolution and crime."
Aristotle

Bill Volk wrote:

> There's a sci-fi story about a future where the majority of the
> population is just plain stupid ... and are supplied with autos
> limited to 30 mph ... but supplied with sound effects and pitch
> controls to make them appear much faster.March of the Morons or
> somehthing.Bill
>
>
>

Simon Norton | 3 May 17:37 2000

what happened before cars ?


I think there is a serious answer to Meil Baker's question of how people
satisfied the desires now satisfied by cars before cars were invented.

I contend that many of these desires were satisfied by participation in the
colonization processes of the 19th century, including power, status, and the
desire to satisfy one's curiosity as to what lies beyond.

At this time colonialism was intimately involved with military activity, but
destruction of lives and the environment was probably no worse than that caused
by cars nowadays.

At about the time of WWI four things started to change, a process that grew
through WWII. The carnage of these wars reduced the popularity of militarism.
Areas that were colonized learned how to resist. We ran out of world to conquer.
And a prospect arose of satisfying the same desires by means of personal
colonization machines, i.e. cars.

As a result, colonialism has now mutated to a form which people have not yet
learnt how to resist. This is the economic mode as exemplified by organizations
like the IMF. It still satisfies the practical function of protecting the
economic interests of the industrialized world, but it no longer satisfies
psychological needs -- only a few of us can be IMF field agents.

If we are to get rid of colonialism, politicians in the industrialized world
must feel that they need to court the votes of people like the recent Washington
demonstrators. And exactly the same applies if we want to get rid of motoring,
or, more realistically, change its status from the "default" mode of transport
to the mode of last resort, which is what it would be if its use was determined
by the needs of society rather than the desires (both practical and
(Continue reading)

Eric Larson | 3 May 20:59 2000
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Re: Psychology of the Car

Several replies to my post about the psychology of the car raised
the important point that many of the desires filled by the car may be
created "outside" us by marketing, advertising, society, culture, or
government policies.

For example, TV commercials tell us we have to have a car to be sexy
or successful. Capitalism is set up to reward and promote greed, speed,
and consumptive need. American cultural traditions perpetuate the
desire to always be busy and on the move. Perhaps our "so-called"
psychological needs are socially or culturally constructed rather than
coming from within individuals.

I view the problem as a mix of both "nature" and "nurture." As
humans, we are naturally prone to fall into addictive, destructive
habits (like driving). We get some pleasure from filling simple desires
for speed, independence, and mobility. Part of the reason we repeat
habitual driving behavior is because they give us some pleasure.

But our habit is also "nurtured" from outside: our habits are
reinforced by social reminders to keep doing them. We see other people
driving and rationalize that being addicted to an automobile can't be
all that bad if everyone else is doing it. The ad agencies get on board
and provide all the reasons we need to keep taking our auto drugs.
Government policy steps in and provides economic incentives to keep
driving by fighing wars to secure oil, building roads, and discouraging
substitutes for the auto. However, if we were not originally prone to
addictive behavior, society, ads, and government policy would have no
effect.

So there is a mix here. We first have to be prone to addiction and
(Continue reading)

Francyne Pelchar | 3 May 21:17 2000
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Re: Re: Psychology of the Car


> Capitalism is set up to reward and promote greed, speed,
> and consumptive need.
>

Must one be against greed, speed, and consumptive need simply because he/she
likes to ride a bicycle. Are these mutually exclusive? Can't one have an
expensive bike which meets consumptive needs? Can't one have lots of
expensive other stuff, greedily bought and enjoyed? It sounds from your
post that you might favour communists or socialists. I would hope that no
one would ever think that I was in favour of those political philosophies
simply because I ride a bike for transportation.

Francyne Pelchar


Gmane