What Does Music Choice Have to do with Road Rage?

Sometimes, the letters to the editor in professional journals are much more interesting than the research papers that are published. Here’s one from Rob M F van der Weiden:

Dr James suggests that some cases of ‘road rage’ in motorists might be due to an overdose of pop music at the wheel (June 2001 JRSM, pp. 316-317). More likely there exist fundamental (psychological) differences between motorists listening to Mozart and motorists enjoying uncivilized music. I should not be surprised if motorists eager to mow down the odd cyclist prefer uncivilized music to Mozart.

I find this particularly thought-provoking. What assumptions does van der Weiden make about “civilized” and “uncivilized” music, and its effect on us and our psychology, that would lead him to this conclusion? Are those assumptions correct, and if so, do we have scientific evidence to back these assumptions up?

If musical choice vs. eagerness “to mow down the odd cyclist” were perfectly random, then the same proportion of those motorists should be evident in each listening group. Since van der Weiden thinks not, clearly the kind of music one listens to makes a difference, somehow!

Please, let fly with your comments. I’m interested to hear what my readers think.

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