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Race Car Conflict

April 2, 2018

Researchers learn about aggression and conflict by watching Formula One races.



Unhealthy competition. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

[Formula One race sound] Formula One cars travel at over 200 miles per hour, piloted by competitive drivers who sometimes try to intimidate one another. To researcher Matthew Bothner, from the European School of Management and Technology in Berlin, that’s a research opportunity.

MATTHEW BOTHNER (European School of Management and Technology, Berlin):

Formula 1 provides a kind of learning laboratory for understanding how similarity in status might affect conflict.


In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, he and his colleagues report that collisions happen most frequently when drivers are of similar age and rankings– what he calls status ambiguity. They target one another with risky dares to resolve that ambiguity, and see who’s top dog. The work could help researchers understand and perhaps prevent conflicts from escalating in such areas as business and policing. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon