When driving on the road, it’s easy to point darted glances at those cruising around in luxury cars. Envied for their wheels, there are often theories that those behind the wheel of these luxury cars are not the greatest people in the world.
From cutting off motorists without using their blinker to tailgating until they wiz past, those who believe that drivers in luxury cars are jerks are not wrong, according to a new study.
Researchers at the University of Helsinki found that self-centered men who are “argumentative, stubborn, disagreeable and unempathetic” are more likely to own luxurious cars like Audi, BMW, or Mercedes.
“I had noticed that the ones most likely to run a red light, not give way to pedestrians and generally drive recklessly and too fast were often the ones driving fast German cars,” said Jan-Erik Lönnqvist, a professor of social psychology at the University of Helsinki, in a press release.
Researchers said earlier studies showed that drivers with expensive cars are more likely to break traffic laws, which is a common assumption amongst other drivers that those with wealth often take advantage of the situation, whether in the workplace or on the road.
Lönnqvist and his team decided to look past previous studies in order to find what specific types of people like high-status cars, regardless of their economic background. They also wanted to find the tendency of those to break traffic laws.
For the study, researchers examined Finnish consumers where a total of 1,892 car owners were asked about their car and their consumption habits and wealth. They were also asked questions that explored their personality traits. The personality traits examined were openness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, extraversion, and agreeableness, according to the study.
The study found that argumentative, stubborn men are more likely to own flashy cars.
“These personality traits explain the desire to own high-status products, and the same traits also explain why such people break traffic regulations more frequently than others,” said Lönnqvist. “But we also found that those whose personality was deemed more disagreeable were more drawn to high-status cars. These are people who often see themselves as superior and are keen to display this to others.”
Researchers were shocked when they made an unexpected finding — that the conscientious are also drawn to high-status cars. The conscientious are people who are respectable, ambitions, reliable, and well organized.
“The link is presumably explained by the importance they attach to high quality. All makes of car have a specific image, and by driving a reliable car they are sending out the message that they themselves are reliable,” Lönnqvist said.
The study, published in the International Journal of Psychology, also said the link between conscientious personality traits and luxurious cars was prevalent for both men and women. But interestingly, the attraction between the self-centered personality types and fast cars was only found in men, not women.
Lönnqvist calls for additional research that could help find the reasons behind this type of consumerism.
“It would be great if consumers had other, sustainable ways of showing their status rather than the superficial consumption of luxury goods that often has negative consequences. We are already seeing that driving an electric car is becoming something of a status symbol, whereas SUVs with their high emissions are no longer considered as cool,” Lönnqvist explained.