Why do young people, especially young men, engage in reckless driving despite the fact that this behavior contradicts the basic biological imperative of self-preservation? Answering this interesting and crucial question may lead to effective interventions. A series of studies, based on terror management theory, examined the effects of reminders of death on risk taking while driving. The dependent measures were either self-reported behavioral intentions of risky driving or driving speed in a car simulator. Findings showed that mortality-salience inductions led to more risky driving than the control condition only among individuals who perceived driving as relevant to their self-esteem. The introduction of positive feedback about driving eliminated this effect. The complex role of self-esteem in the process of risk taking is discussed.
- Mortality salience
- Reckless driving