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944Psychology of the Car

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  • Eric Larson
    May 2, 2000
      There 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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