Ancient ‘defence’ mechanisms make women drivers are angrier than men, says Hyundai survey

Ancient defence instincts are cited as a reason women are angrier drivers than men.

Ancient defence instincts are cited as a reason women are angrier drivers than men. - Credit: Hyundai supplied

Women are, on average, 12% angrier than men when they're behind the wheel, a study of 1,000 drivers from Hyundai Motor UK revealed.

Researchers found driving sparked ancient 'defence' instincts from when humans were hunter-gatherers. These evolutionary traits kicked in during the test when women were either undertaken, shouted or beeped at, had to deal with a back-seat driver, when women were 14% angrier, or were faced with a road user who failed to indicate (women 13% angrier). In all test scenarios, women were more likely to respond with anger than male drivers.

The experiment, conducted by Patrick Fagan, behavioural psychologist from Goldsmiths University London, 'sense tested' the 1,000 drivers to see how sound, sight, smell, touch and taste provoke emotional responses in different driving scenarios.

The study found there are two dominant emotions: happiness – intrinsically linked to a sense of freedom when driving – and anger when drivers feel out of control.

Other key findings include:

The primary reasons for our continued love affair with driving are the freedom it gives us (51%), mobility (19%) and independence (10%).

If you want a man to open up, take him for a drive. Just under a third (29%) of men said they find it easier to have a conversation in the car. And 14% added that a chat actually made them a better driver.

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54% of Brits said the thing that made them really happy in the car was singing – which explains why Carpool Karaoke has resonated with so many people.

When the researchers looked at what makes us happy behind the wheel, 84% of people said 'empty roads', 78% said 'the countryside' and 69% 'the seaside'.

Music also makes drivers happy. Eight out of 10 people nearly always listen to something while driving with Meatloaf's Bat out of Hell and Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody top of the driving charts. Pop (70%) and rock (61%) are the most popular genres.

Explaining the results, Fagan said: 'Psychologically, women score higher than men on emotional and verbal intelligence, and on the personality trait of neuroticism. Evolutionary theory suggests our early female ancestors had to develop an acute sense of danger for anything that threatened them and their young if their cave was undefended while men were out hunting. That 'early-warning system' instinct is still relevant today, and women drivers tend to be more sensitive to negative stimuli, so get angry and frustrated quicker.'

Tony Whitehorn, Hyundai Motor UK's president and CEO, said: 'We are constantly striving to better understand what impacts people's behaviour when they are driving and this research has certainly revealed some interesting, and somewhat surprising results. By examining drivers' emotions, our aim is to help them get a better drive both today and in the future.'

Hyundai and Fagan have used data from the research and cutting-edge technology to create the world first Driving Emotion Test (DET). This unique experiment involves facial-coding technology, eye-tracking analysis, galvanic skin response and a heart-rate monitor to record how specific stimuli impact our emotions when we're driving. The results are then fed into specially-created software to provide subjects with a unique DET score.

The public can do an online version of the DET and can also secure tickets to House of Hyundai – a three-day sensory experience on November 4 and 5 at Unit London in Soho, aimed to inspire drivers and give them a glimpse into what the future of driving could look like. Visit

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