Yes, the drivers of those luxury cars that cut you off really do suck. A new study in the Journal of International Psychology finds that many owners of high-status luxury cars are actually assholes. “The answers were unambiguous: self-centered men who are argumentative, stubborn, disagreeable and unempathetic are much more likely to own a high-status car such as an Audi, BMW or Mercedes,” say the researchers in a press release.
The study surveyed 1,892 Finnish car owners and also analyzed their personality types, an idea inspired by lead researcher Jan-Erik Lönnqvist’s observation that the drivers “most likely to run a red light, not give way to pedestrians and generally drive recklessly and too fast were often the ones driving fast German cars” such as BMWs, Mercedes, and Audis. He knew that previous studies found luxury car drivers more likely to ignore traffic rules and drive “unethically,” but it was unclear why: Was wealth corrupting their behavior?
Lönnqvist, a professor of social psychology at the University of Helsinki, instead asked what types of people own these cars. Sure enough, he found that less cooperative, less kind, and less considerate men often drive high-status cars. “The same traits also explain why such people break traffic regulations more frequently than others,” says Lönnqvist.
He found no connection between female self-centeredness and luxury cars.
Before you start flashing the bird at passing luxury vehicles, know that not all classy car owners suck. In fact, some are quite dependable: The study also found that conscientious men and women—people who are organized, ambitious, respectable, and often high-performing—are also frequent owners of high-status cars, which Lönnqvist says likely reflects an appreciation for quality and an urge to present a self-image of classy reliability. You can probably tell the difference by whether or not they’re speeding, weaving through traffic, and cutting off pedestrians.