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31 October 2007

Driving fast makes men feel macho

Young men drive fast because speed is perceived as inherently male, a team of Swiss and German researchers claimed in a study released on Monday.

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Young men drive fast because speed is perceived as inherently male, a team of Swiss and German researchers claimed in a study released on Monday.

The scientists at the Universities of Zurich, Neuchatel and Heidelberg found that men who were exposed to a "typically male environment" drove "significantly" faster than when they were in female or neutral environments.

The study involved 83 male students aged 20 to 27, who were placed in driving simulators, Neuchatel psychology professor Marianne Schmid Mast said.

They accelerated when they were played words such as 'muscle' or 'beard' - which were taken to evoke masculine traits - over the car radio in the simulated male environment.

Aggressive driving kills
In the female environment, words like 'lipstick' or 'pink' were played and they drove about two kilometres an hour slower. Similar results were found with the simulated neutral environment - words like 'table' or chair'.

The study was prompted by concern about the high proportion of young men involved in road accidents linked to speeding. Schmid Mast said the results were statistically significant.

"The link between a macho attitude and aggressive driving has often been evoked but it hadn't been demonstrated," she told AFP.

The researchers said the findings could help design road safety campaigns that dissociate speed from masculinity, such as by showing seven times Formula One motor racing champion Michael Schumacher driving slowly on normal roads.

Schmid Mast said she hoped to conduct a similar study with a group of women. - (Sapa-AFP)

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