The psychology behind finding the best parking space

WASHINGTON — From Springfield Town Center to Tysons, from the Mall in
Columbia to the Mall at Prince Georges, the holiday shopping season is in
full swing — and so is the competition to find the best parking spot.

How is it that when searching for a prime parking spot, civilized men and
suddenly have the aggressiveness of NFL linebackers? offers a
possible explanation, contending that parking lot fights are “turf wars, power
struggles, symbolic fights that arouse our pride.”

It’s parking rage. But not all motorists have the symptoms. Some drivers
take the first available spot they see, choosing to walk a distance rather
than battle it out for the close-to-the-entrance spots. But others will circle
the lot again and again until that choice spot close to the mall entrance
opens up.

An article on concludes that people who look for the best spot
wind up spending more time getting inside the store than those who took the
spot they saw. But perhaps, deep down inside they don’t really mind the extra
time it takes.

Psychologists who have studied this sort of parking lot behavior say they
believe that
it’s not laziness that inspires people to hunt for the parking space close to
the entrance. The shrinks
say the circling motorists do it for the victory — a parking-lot triumph.

Parking rage also includes passive aggression. Pennsylvania State University
researchers who observed
parking-lot behavior say departing drivers take 11 seconds longer to vacate a
space when someone is waiting than when no one is there.

A little strategy for ratcheting down the parking rage: Psychologists
holiday shoppers searching for a parking spot get their chill on. Realize
that a
parking space is not worth a fight, and don’t be rude to the rude.

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