How Windshield Perspective Shapes the Way We See the World

Via Shane Phillips at Planetizen: A new study published in the Transportation Research Record confirms that windshield perspective is all-too real. Observing the world from behind the wheel, it turns out, has a powerful influence on our judgments about places and even people.

Drivers are exposed to less information about the places they travel through than walkers and bikers. Image: ##http://foodtruckroadtrip.blogspot.com/2012/09/day-3-effort-pa-and-day-4-nyc-and.html## Food Truck Road Trip##
Driving cuts people off from information about their surroundings, unlike walking and biking. Image: ##http://foodtruckroadtrip.blogspot.com/2012/09/day-3-effort-pa-and-day-4-nyc-and.html##Food Truck Road Trip##

Researchers found that people driving a car tend to view unfamiliar, less-affluent neighborhoods more negatively than people who were walking, biking or taking transit. In affluent neighborhoods, the inverse effect took hold, and drivers had a more positive view of the surrounding area than other people did.

The study found drivers, pedestrians, transit riders, and cyclists even perceived the same event — two children fighting over a piece of paper — differently, reports Eric Horowitz in the Pacific Standard:

The researchers found that participants who saw the video from the perspective of a car rated the actors higher on negative characteristics (threatening, unpleasant) than participants in the other three conditions. Participants who saw the video from the perspective of the pedestrian rated the actors higher on positive characteristics (considerate, well-educated) than those in the car condition.

The research team, from the University of Surrey, also found that, compared to people who aren’t driving, motorists tend to have more negative attitudes toward young people.

Researchers speculate that the gap in perception stems from the fact that drivers are exposed to less information than walkers, bikers, and transit riders. Because they are insulated from the environment around them, they are more likely to make snap judgements that confirm superficial biases.

Horowitz says the findings could help explain why people who live in cities for a while tend to remain in them. Meanwhile, Phillips sees it as a potential factor in negative attitudes toward cities among rural or suburban dwellers.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Americans Aren’t as Dependent on Cars as You Might Think

|
Americans drive a lot. About 90 percent live in a household with a car. Among adults, 89 percent are licensed to drive. Overwhelmingly, most people get to work by driving alone. But those statistics obscure some important nuances. A new study by Ralph Buehler and Andrea Hamre in the journal Transportation looks at Americans who are “multi-modal” […]

Separate But Eco: Livable Communities for Whom?

|
Note: The authors are active advocates in the urban sustainability movement, focusing on non-motorized transportation in low-income urban areas. As mixed race women of color, we believe that we are in a unique position to bridge the advocacy communities trying to better conditions for the urban poor and for the environment. In this series, we […]