The impact of visual perspective and anger on the actor-observer bias among automobile drivers

Traffic Inj Prev. 2007 Jun;8(2):115-22. doi: 10.1080/15389580601048937.


Objective: The present study was designed to examine the combined impact of the Actor-Observer Bias and driver anger on attributions of other drivers.

Methods: Participants watched a simulated driving sequence in which a car swerved in front of a truck in near collision. Half viewed from the perspective of the offending motorist while the other half viewed from the perspective of a trailing motorist. Participants then rated the general riskiness of the offending motorist and the responsibility of the victim driver.

Results: Findings support the visual perspective explanation of the Actor-Observer Bias in that attributions within a single event differed based on the random assignment of visual perspective. However, the nature of the attributions interacted with the level of anger experienced over the incident. Those viewing as a trailing motorist provided greater riskiness ratings for the offending motorist than did those viewing from the perspective of the offending motorist, but only when scoring/rating high on personal feelings of anger regarding the observed incident.

Conclusion: The present study demonstrates that personal factors and common cognitive biases can influence how events in the traffic environment are perceived, and the subsequent judgments made of other drivers following negative events.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anger*
  • Automobile Driving / psychology*
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New York
  • Observer Variation*
  • Task Performance and Analysis