Object Attachment and Risk Perception Predicts Cell Phone Use While Driving

Distracted driving is a significant public health problem. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the number of traffic injuries was as high as 24,000 in 2009, and these were believed to be caused by cell phone use due to the distraction associated with the behaviour (Weller et al., 2013).

A study by Weller and colleagues (2013) shows that both younger and older drivers, who have a strong object attachment to their cell phones, engage in this health-risking behaviour.

Indeed, earlier research has established that people develop bonds toward objects (Belk, 1988), and that people value objects they own, especially if they are perceived as being irreplaceable (Grayson & Shulman, 2000).

The younger population was also found to engage in this behaviour when they perceived their cell phone attachment as being weak, in contrast to the older population.

This may be due to the fact that the younger population has a lower risk perception of the behaviour compared to the older population.

Taken together, a low perception of risk is seen as a strong predictor, together with the object attachment, for this health-risking behaviour.

According to Loewenstein (2001), affective influences can lead to judgmental biases, especially judgements of risks. This makes perfectly sense, as an object attachment involves emotional engagement, and it is therefore likely to affect a person’s perception of risks.

Photo: Hope for Gorilla