The Upside of a Long Commute? Time to Think

paff_091616_benefitslongcommute_newsfeatureAccording to a 2011 report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, it takes the average commuter about 38 minutes to reach their workplace. This means the average commuter spends almost 300 hours each year just getting to and from work.

Research has shown that long commutes have a negative impact on many aspects of life, from mental health and blood pressure to divorce rates. Commuting is such a negative experience that, according to a recent analysis conducted by FiveThirtyEight, New Yorkers are willing to shell out an extra $56 a month to cut their commuting time by just one minute.

But preliminary research from a team led by Jon Jachimowicz (Columbia Business School) finds that commuting may actually offer a surprising perk for some people. The findings suggest that employees who used their commute time to think…

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Does Hot Weather Fuel Road Rage?

PAFF-080416_HeatRoadRage_newsfeatureAs summer temperatures rise, so do people’s tempers. For decades, researchers have observed a correlation between hot weather and increases in violent, aggressive behavior.

In one classic study from 1984, APS Fellow Douglas Kenrick and Steven MacFarlane observed that drivers get more aggressive on hotter days. The team had a research confederate purposely irritate other drivers by remaining stopped all the way through a 12-second green light at an intersection. Aggressive behavior was calculated by tracking the total amount of time that other drivers spent honking.

The research team conducted this test 75 times between April and August in Phoenix, Arizona, where temperatures ranged from a scorching 116° F on the hottest days to a relatively mild 86° F degrees on the cooler days.

“Results indicated a direct linear increase in horn honking with increasing temperature. Stronger results were obtained by examining…

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Police Language in Traffic Stops Shows Hidden Bias

PAFF_072016_PoliceLanguageTraffic_newsfeatureRecords show that 32-year-old Philando Castile was stopped by police at least 46 times before he was killed by a police officer during another traffic stop in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. Several recent investigations have shown that a disproportionate number of the motorists pulled over, fined, searched, and arrested by police during traffic stops are African American. Routine traffic stops over minor infractions, such as broken brake lights or a failure to signal, have led to a number of high-profile deaths of unarmed African American drivers at the hands of police—further fueling accusations of racial bias in policing.

Because traffic stops are one of the most common ways that individuals interact with the police, they also present an important opportunity to improve community relations between police and civilians. In a comprehensive research review published in Psychological Science in…

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The Moral Science Behind Self-Driving Cars

PAFF_070716_SelfDrivingMorality_newsfeatureEarlier this year, Joshua Brown of Canton, Ohio became the first known fatality of a self-driving car. Brown was killed in May when his Tesla Model S crashed into a tractor trailer while engaged in a self-driving Autopilot mode. Although Tesla’s Autopilot mode allows its vehicles to automatically apply brakes, steer, and change lanes, the company has insisted that this technology is not meant to replace a human driver—at least not quite yet.

“When used in conjunction with driver oversight, the data is unequivocal that Autopilot reduces driver workload and results in a statistically significant improvement in safety,” Tesla said in a statement.

And they have a good point — according to Tesla, their cars have logged 130 million miles on the road using Autopilot with just a single fatality. By comparison, human drivers averaged 1.08 crash deaths per 100 million miles…

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Why Driving Lessons Should Go Green

PAFF_062216_GreenDrivingLessons_newsfeatureRoad transportation accounts for around 20% of greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union, according to the European Commission. One strategy to help reduce emissions is to get bus drivers to adopt new driving behaviors to use up less fuel. But can training people in the lab actually translate to greener driving behavior on the road?

A promising new study shows that a simple behavioral intervention for bus drivers may go a long way towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Working with Pirita Niemi of the Työtehoseura organization in Finland, psychological scientists Mark J.M. Sullman and Lisa Dorn of Cranfield University in the UK designed a field experiment to see if eco-driving in the lab could lead to lasting behavior changes on the road.

A group of professional bus drivers was trained in the lab on how to use more fuel-efficient driving strategies.…

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