Driving thoughts: the psychological benefits of driving
Professor Lynne Pearce has spent more than 20 years writing about driving. Her headline-hitting research is based on one simple question: what do we think about when we’re behind the wheel?
The door to the Cayenne closes with a satisfying sound and Lynne Pearce exhales slowly. Over the decades, the modern car has become something of a sanctuary for the academic: a place to muse, meditate and problem solve. A place to feel safe, and find inspiration.
A special connection to the car
The daughter of a mechanic and a garage owner, she grew up surrounded by cars in Cornwall but has lived in north west Scotland for the past 22 years. In that time, she has taken the 800-mile round trip between her late parents’ home, and her base two hours north of Glasgow on a regular basis.
Driving supports productive thinking
When I was working on my book, and told people that I was interested in what we think about while we’re driving, I was often met with incredulity because there is this misconception that the only thing we can possibly think about when we’re in a car is driving itself. However, since the early days of motoring, psychologists have been interested in the fact that driving – as well as being one of the most complex, everyday tasks – is also one that frees up parts of the brain to think productively, she explains.
Driving: the ultimate ‘time-out’ for problem solving
From the exhilaration and euphoria associated with speed, through the day-dreaming and problem solving promoted by cruising, to the intimate communion we can achieve with the natural world when we’re driving through a beautiful landscape with the windows down, I discovered that different types of driving inspire and promote different kinds of thought, she says.
By pre-occupying one part of the brain, driving helps to calm us down and think more calmly about our problems. This is why for many of us, myself included, driving is such a great ‘time-out’ for problem solving.”
The pleasure of slowing down
”Driving fast can be exhilarating and mood-changing, however, I feel strongly that not enough is made these days of the pleasures we can all experience from driving slowly.
The silence and sensation of driving in electric mode really enhances this sort of experience and it’s interesting that the first users of electric vehicles raved about exactly this at the beginning of the 20th century.
For me, motoring sustainability isn’t just about the quest for a carbon-free future: I think one of the most important principles is that we come to value our vehicles a little more, to preserve them for longer. Vehicles as superbly engineered as a Porsche are built to last, and I like to think of them having a long life.”
Nov 20, 2020 at 16:40