Angry Drivers Take Risky Decisions: Evidence from Neurophysiological Assessment

The present study investigated the risk-taking behaviors of angry drivers, which were coincidentally measured via behavioral and electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings. We manipulated a driving scenario that concerned a Go/No-Go decision at an intersection when the controlling traffic light was in its yellow phase. This protocol was based upon the underlying format of the Iowa gambling task. Variation in the anger level was induced through task frustration. The data of twenty-four drivers were analyzed via behavioral and neural recordings, and P300 was specifically extracted from EEG traces. In addition, the behavioral performance was indexed by the percentage of high-risk choices minus the number of the low-risk choices taken, which identified the risk-taking propensity. Results confirmed a significant main effect of anger on the decisions taken. The risk-taking propensity decreased across the sequence of trial blocks in baseline assessments. However, with anger, the risk-taking propensity increased across the trial regimen. Drivers in anger state also showed a higher mean amplitude of P300 than that in baseline state. Additionally, high-risk choices evoked larger P300 amplitude than low-risk choices during the anger state. Moreover, the P300 amplitude of high-risk choices was significantly larger in the anger state than the baseline state. The negative feedback induced larger P300 amplitude than that recorded in positive feedback trials. The results corroborated that the drivers exhibited higher risk-taking propensity when angry although they were sensitive to the inherent risk-reward evaluations within the scenario. To reduce this type of risk-taking, we proposed some effective/affective intervention methods.

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