Self-centered, stubborn and argumentative men are more likely to own luxury cars, says study
Can science explain why the most obnoxious people on your commute also tend to drive high-end cars? Maybe, according to a recent study from the University of Helsinki.
Jan-Erik Lonnqvist, lead study author and a professor of social psychology, wanted to figure out whether certain people who tend to be more aggressive or antagonistic also gravitate towards high-status cars. For the study, "high-status cars" include the brands Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Lexus and Mercedez-Benz.
The researchers found that disagreeable men who are argumentative, stubborn and unempathetic were more likely to drive high-status cars.
But interestingly, both men and women who had high levels of conscientiousness, meaning they're thoughtful and pay attention to details, also were likely to drive these luxury cars.
So what does this mean? Other studies have found that "upper-class individuals" are more likely to violate traffic codes because they feel entitled to do so, and these findings could shed additional light on why many luxury car drivers also tend to have "unethical" driving habits, the study authors write.
But the Finnish study authors write that this "may not be due to the corruptive effects of high social class, but rather due to the underlying personality traits that dispose certain people to purchase high-status cars." In other words, people with money see themselves as superior, and therefore are "keen to display it to others," Lonnqvist said in a press release.
The "conscientious" luxury car owners, on the other hand, likely want to send the message that they're responsible and reliable, he said in the release.
Naturally, many people who drive these types of cars also have strong feelings about the findings, Lonnqvist tells CNBC Make It in an email. He says he received lots of "blacklash" from luxury car owners who wanted him to know they are not angry people.
"Far more interesting than the paper is that the car really seems to be an important identity issue for Audi and BMW owners," he says.
For the study, researchers surveyed 1,892 Finnish car owners, who had an average age of 53.5. While other studies suggest that narcissists are typically drawn to products that "promote their personal uniqueness," the authors wanted to dig deeper into the personality traits of luxury car owners.
The questions ranged from asking about their income and make of car, to measuring their levels of the five major personality traits: neuroticism, openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness and extraversion.
Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Lexus and Mercedez-Benz did not immediately respond to CNBC Make It's request for comment.
Ultimately, "it would be great if consumers had other, sustainable ways of showing their status," Lonnqvist said in the release. For example, "we are already seeing that driving an electric car is becoming something of a status symbol, whereas SUVs with their high emissions are no longer considered as cool," he said.
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