Some interesting preliminary research suggests that our parking behavior says something about our country’s economic drive, and it may have you parking your car differently after reading this.
It all starts with the the delayed gratification test in psychology. Remember when we were kids and the teacher would give us one piece of candy? We could eat it if we wanted, but if we waited five more minutes, we would get a second piece of candy. Studies show that the kids who could wait longer for the greater reward had better educational outcomes.
Using a similar version of that concept, we can see a correlation between the way we park our cars and how economically productive and driven we are as individuals and as a society.
International Business professor Shaomin Li of Old Dominion University in Virginia recently studied this phenomenon in Taiwan. Here’s what he noticed:
“When they parked, they took effort – elaborate effort – to wiggle in, reverse – they never park head-in. All of a sudden I said, gee, isn’t this delayed gratification?”
Something as simple as the way you park your car shows how you prepare yourself for the future. Do you take the easy way first and park head in while you have to cautiously and carefully back out when you leave, or do you take the effort to back in first so that your exit is smooth and simple?
On a greater level, Li is beginning to see a correlation between this behavior and how a country fairs economically. Li explains:
“In China, 88 percent of cars are parked reverse. In our country, it’s less than 6 percent. 6 percent versus 88 – there’s got to be something that we need to explain.”
NPR’s Social Science correspondent Shankar Vedantam, who spoke with Li, had this to add:
“Well, Li thinks that there’s a correlation between parking behavior and economic growth rate. So if you buy the idea that reverse parking is a signal of delayed gratification, countries that seem to practice more of this kind of delayed gratification seem to have higher economic growth rate.”
As we all know, China has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Steve Inskeep, a host of the show, noticed this concept in another country.
“I’m just amazed here because I’m thinking about Russia, where I was for a little bit. Russians just park their car wherever they can find a space – like, on the sidewalk. They don’t even think about backing in or going forward.”
Of course, there are many other variables to factor in such a study, such as vehicle size and work culture, but the general concept still remains interesting. It all boils down to having the mentality of instant gratification or a rewarding future. Vedantam ends by pointing out:
“I think this is a far from definitive study. It’s an interesting and provocative study. Li himself thinks that this actually needs to be expanded into a much larger study.”
So how will you park your car the next time you drive?