944Psychology of the Car
- May 2, 2000There is an interesting book titled, Driving Passion: The
Psychology of the Car by Peter Marsh and Peter Collett, published by
Faber and Faber, Boston and London, 1986 Both authors are psychologists
who lay out the psychological motivations of cars in chapters titled
things like Costume, Fashion, Jewelry, Uniform, Fantasy,
Icons, Weapon, and Thrill.
They argue that the car should be viewed as a vehicle for expressing
psychological desires rather than a mode of transport. They argue that
efforts to simply replace the car with alternative modes of
transportation will inevitably fail because the car uniquely satisfies
psychological needs that cannot be met by busses, trains, electric cars,
walking, or bicycling.
I find their argument compelling. After spending many years trying
to construct rational arguments against cars and to measure the economic
costs of cars, I've come to realize that the cars proliferate not
because people like the mobility and access it provides. Far more
important is the sense of control, protection, independence, thrill,
success, and other desires that the car fills. Until these desires can
be satiated in some other way, the hegemony of the car will intact
despite all of the rational reasons for eliminating it. Those who
truly want to reduce cars need to find alternative ways to satisfy the
_desires_ that the car fulfills.
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