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Does social rejection increase susceptibility to peer influence? Testing a model of social rejection, physiological stress, and peer influence on risky driving among adolescents and young adults

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posted on 23.05.2021, 13:44 by Jessica E. Sutherland
Peer passengers are a significant risk factor for young drivers experiencing collisions and other adverse driving outcomes. A number of studies have tested the effect of peer passengers on driving behaviour, but few have manipulated contextual variables, such as social evaluation, that predict risky behaviour in other contexts. Further, it is not clear how individual susceptibilities to peer influence, such as physiological stress, interact with contextual variables to affect risky behaviour. The current study explored whether social evaluation (via social rejection or social acceptance) affect driving outcomes acceleration, speed, and lane positioning) and if the type of social evaluation affects perception of risky peer norms. Individual differences, including physiological stress and sensitivity to social evaluation, were measured to determine if they moderate the relationship between social evaluation and driving outcomes. A total of 75 adolescents and young adults between the ages of 17 and 25 years were randomized to complete the study alone or with a confederate who was instructed to socially accept or socially reject them, as well as model risky or risk-averse driving norms. Results indicated that peer passengers and peer driving norms, regardless of the social-evaluative context, did not generally affect mean values of driving outcomes, but did affect variability in driving outcomes, particularly in intersections. Physiological stress and perceptions of social acceptance also predicted driving outcomes, such that participants who had higher mean heart rates and felt more socially accepted by the confederate had more variability in their driving outcomes. These findings suggest that peer passengers increase variable, or inconsistent, driving patterns, perhaps due to passengers distracting young drivers from road conditions. Further, feeling socially accepted increases the strength of the relationship between presence of peer passengers and inconsistent driving patterns, indicating that social rewards may precede risky behaviour more often than social threats do.





Doctor of Philosophy



Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type