Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Sensation Seeking and Pedestrian Crossing Compliance

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Sensation Seeking and Pedestrian Crossing Compliance

Article excerpt

Seventy-nine students were stopped by researchers after crossing a pedestrian crossing when the light was either green or red in conjunction with 4 different conditions: with or without the presence of a policeman and hurrying or not hurrying. Later, these participants were administered the Sensation Seeking Scale V (SSS; Zuckerman, 1994). No difference was found in the rate of pedestrians crossing against the red light either with or without the presence of a policeman. Among those who crossed against a red light there were more high than there were low sensation seekers. In addition, more males than females crossed against the red light disregarding the presence of the policeman. Interactions were found between gender and hurrying and between sensation seeking and stress of time in relation to crossing against a red light.

Keywords: sensation seeking, police, road safety.

According to the learning theory of Bertsch (1976), the payoff matrix should increase the probability of the appearance of a desired behavior and decrease the probability of the appearance of an undesired behavior. Attempts to influence road behaviors are usually based on negative consequences for unsafe or undesired behavior, for example, fines. Behavior modification by positive and negative reinforcement might be affected by individual differences such as personality traits. Since road users high in sensation-seeking behavior are more daring and commit more violations than do those who are less so (Jonah, 1997; Wilson & Jonah, 1988) the effectiveness of possible punishments is doubtful (Aluja-Fabregat & Torrubia-Beltry, 1998; Torrubia, Avila, Molto, & caseras, 2001).

The term sensation seeking refers to individual differences in optimal levels of arousal and stimulation, manifested as a character dimension (Zuckerman, 1994) and regulated by neuroregulators like the catecholamines, dopamine and norepinephrine. Emotionally, high sensation seekers are more likely to be nonconformists and to have an intense need for autonomy and independence. In stressful conditions, as in the case of captivity, they adjust better than the avoiders by regarding the new situation as challenging. Avoiders are more detached and tend to practice denial strategies (Eysenck & Eysenck, 1985; Eysenck & Zuckerman, 1978; Franken, Gibson, & Rowland, 1992; Solomon, Ginzburg, Neria, & Ohry, 1995).

While the driving behavior of sensation seekers has been widely studied (see review in Jonah, 1997), pedestrian behavior is a relatively neglected area, mainly investigated in the context of children (e.g., Ampofo-Boateng & Thomson, 1991; Rosenbloom & Wolf, 2002a). The objective of the present study was to better understand the construct of sensation seeking under enforcement. More precisely, research was carried out on the differential effect of the presence of a policeman at a pedestrian crossing controlled by lights on the behavior of sensation-seeking and nonsensation seeking pedestrians, under various conditions.


Based on the sensation seekers' inclination to be nonconformist and overdaring, it was expected that the presence of a policeman at a pedestrian crossing controlled by lights would not restrain sensation-seeking pedestrians from crossing against the red traffic light (Hypothesis 2), unlike sensation-avoiders. It can be deduced that this study's basic assumption was that most of the pedestrians, disregarding personality factors, would be more respectful of road rules as a consequence of a threat of being punished than they would be in the absence of this threat (Hypothesis 1). The operational definition of sensation seeking is based on Zuckerman's (1994) Sensation-seeking Scale (SSS).

Since sensation seeking has so far been correlated with gender (males are higher in sensation seeking than are females according to Zuckerman, 1994), it was expected that - taking no account of the presence of a policeman - males would be more likely to cross against a red light than would females, (Hypothesis 3). …

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