1 Department of Transport, Technical University of Denmark2 Transport policy and behaviour, Department of Transport, Technical University of Denmark3 Department of Management Engineering, Technical University of Denmark
Implicit social cognitions are thought processes that are not accessible to conscious introspection. These automatic processes can be measured with simple computer tasks that do not rely on participants’ self-reports. Across a broad range of research areas (e.g., stereotyping; prejudice; consumer choice; health behavior), measures of implicit cognition have been shown to predict behavior particularly well if the behavior is associated with social desirability concerns and/or if a decision must be made spontaneously. Driving behavior is characterized by frequent decisions under time pressure; further, self-reports of the intention to drive safely (or not) are socially sensitive. Therefore, we examined automatic preferences towards safe and risky driving with a Go/No-go Association Task (GNAT). The results suggest that (1) implicit attitudes towards driving behavior can be measured reliably with the GNAT; (2) implicit attitudes towards safe driving versus towards risky driving may be separable constructs. We propose that research on driving behavior may benefit from routinely including measures of implicit cognition. A practical advantage is a lesser susceptibility to social desirability biases, compared to self-report methods. Pending replication in future research, the apparent dissociation between implicit attitudes towards safe versus risky driving that we observed may contribute to a greater theoretical understanding of the causes of unsafe and risky driving behavior.