Mind-control behind the wheel? You can affect others by the way you drive

What would you say if told you that you can control people's minds?  Well, not to the extent where you can take over the world, but changing how you drive can actually affect the behaviors of other drivers around you.

Jack Baruth, contributing editor for Road and Track magazine has developed a method that uses a driver's inattentiveness to manipulate the way they drive.

"The core idea behind it is that people aren't doing things deliberately to cause you trouble in traffic.  They're doing things because they're taking on an action paradigm that is designed for humanity 10,000 years ago." 

That paradigm is the unconscious herding instinct. 

Baruth is an avid motorcycle rider and because, he has to pay attention to what drivers are doing around him, he started noticing how drivers would speed up after he passed them.

"And you wonder, 'why are they doing that? Are they trying to cut me off?'  In most of the cases, that's not the case at all.  It's just that we've been engineered by evolution to feel better when we're traveling in a group."

Rather than getting angry at the other drivers not paying attention around you, theres another way to look at it.

"If somebody is operating in an unconscious fashion, simply responding to the stimuli around them, that means that their behavior can be changed by modifying the inputs that they receive."

One of the ways Baruth was able to test this theory was to slowly speed up, one mile per hour at a time and the person riding in his blind spot would follow right along all the way up to 90+ mph, and back down to 70.  And they didn't even know they were doing it.

"You will have very solid everyday citizens, who would NEVER do 95 mph on the freeway, but if they're going 65, and you pass them going 70 and they speed up, sometimes they will follow you all the way to 90 and then back down to 70 in 1 mph increments so that they can have the unconscious benefit of being right next to you on the road."

At the very least, you want to snap them out of their zombie zone by doing things to make sure they know you're there.  For example, if a driver is stuck in your blind spot, you can put your turn signal on indicating you're going to move into their lane and leave it on for a little while.  

Baruth says, "Sometimes the flashing light will alert them to the idea that 'Hey, this guy would like to move over, maybe I should slow down or move up'." 

The take away from this is, it's too easy to lapse into unconscious driving.  Don't become a zombie behind the wheel.  Keep an eye on your surroundings, pay attention to how you're driving.  And by driving more attentively, you may save a life, including your own.

You can find more details about Jack Baruth's findings in his article in Road and Track magazine

Print this article Back to Top