There Is Now Scientific Proof That Jerks Prefer Fancy Cars

Illustration for article titled There Is Now Scientific Proof That Jerks Prefer Fancy Cars
Photo: Drew Angerer (Getty)

I’m feeling pretty validated, today. The International Journal of Psychology has released the findings of a recent study that confirm jerks, or at least Finnish jerks, much prefer luxury cars—specifically BMW, Mercedes, and Audis or—to just about anything else. Hence why it feels like every BMW driver is driving egregiously above the speed limit.

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The study was conducted by the University of Helsinki and, as such, only focuses on 1,892 Finnish drivers. But here’s how they conducted their research:

Regardless of whether income was included in the logistic model, disagreeable men and conscientious people in general were particularly likely to drive high‐status cars. The results regarding agreeableness are consistent with prior work that has argued for the role of narcissism in status consumption. Regarding conscientiousness, the results can be interpreted from the perspective of self‐congruity theory, according to which consumers purchase brands that best reflect their actual or ideal personalities. An important implication is that the association between driving a high‐status car and unethical driving behaviour may not, as is commonly argued, be due to the corruptive effects of wealth. Rather, certain personality traits, such as low agreeableness, may be associated with both unethical driving behaviour and with driving a high‐status car.

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Researchers used the Five-Factor Model of Personality—known as OCEAN, standing for openness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, extraversion, and agreeableness—to understand their test subjects. The more disagreeable (re: douchey and self-centered) the person was, the more likely they were to own a luxury car.

It’s not that all rich people suck, the researchers argue. It’s just that the ones who do all tend to opt for the same brands. And, for some reason, they all happened to be men.

I reached out to Mercedes, BMW, and Audi to see if they had anything to say about this phenomenon. They did not.

Theres’s another really fascinating component of this study, which revealed that not everyone who drives a luxury car is a monster who blasts through red lights and perpetually drives 20 mph over the speed limit. There was also a “consciousness” component, which in this particular case has to do with the self-perception of the driver. Men and women who view themselves as respectable, ambitious, and organized also opted for a luxury car that reflected those values. If you were a car, what car would you be? For those specific people, the answer is a Mercedes.

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I’d love to see this study replicated in other countries—specifically here in the United States. I’m sure there are some regional brand differences, but if I had to hazard an educated guess, I’d say American assholes prefer driving luxury cars just as much as Finnish assholes.

Weekends at Jalopnik. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Freelancer. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.

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DISCUSSION

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feather-throttle-not-hair

Personally, as a lover of driving and high performance driving in particular, i’m always bummed out by the fact that cars double as status symbols and as a show of wealth. But that’s the unfortunate reality.

I bought a BMW because I like that it’s both nice and fast. And I will perpetually pay that price of looking like an asshole anywhere i go in it. (And even, as it turns out, when i’m on the internet and bragging about how i bought a BMW. Because re-reading this comment....man do i come off like an asshole)