“Get the f#*k out of my way!” Exploring the cathartic effect of swear words in coping with driving anger

Previous studies suggest that swearing is a prevalent expression of verbal aggression among drivers, but the role of swearing as a coping mechanism with anger remains unknown. The current article explored the cathartic role of swearing in situations when drivers experienced strong negative emotions. First the authors conducted a structured interview (N = 35) to identify the primary traffic situations when drivers regularly swear. In the second pre-study (N = 28) the authors examined the levels of negative and positive affect generated by these situations in order to identify the scenarios most likely to generate anger. The main study (N = 250) tested the cathartic role of swearing in these scenarios, by measuring its influence on the self-reported negative affective valence and level of physical activation. Results indicated three frequently swearing situations which are characterized by negative affect and high physical activation for the driver: (1) being forced to slow down by pedestrians who cross the road in illegal places; (2) being refused the legitimate right of way by another driver; and (3) traffic jams caused by cars which are stopped or parked illegally on the roadway. However, results showed that swearing had a cathartic role only in the first of these three situations. These findings suggested that swearing is not only an expression of verbal aggression towards another road user, but occasionally a way to cope with anger, which leads to better outcomes for the driver such as more positive affect and lower physical activation.


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  • Accession Number: 01675427
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jun 15 2018 4:22PM