Current Research Interests

Dr. Dwight Hennessy

Department of Psychology

Buffalo State College

Aggression and Violence

      My main interests include driver aggression, workplace aggression, spectator aggression, and female aggression. 

      Driver aggression/violence refers to actual intentional harmful actions.  “Road Rage” sounds nice but rage is an emotion that can lead to aggression, violence, or nothing at all.  Also, many people treat speeding and going through red lights as “aggressive driving”.  Although it’s stupid, illegal, and dangerous it is not intentional harm (I define it as over assertive driving behavior).

      Further, you’d be amazed at the number of people that believe women are “non-aggressive”.  In reality women can demonstrate greater indirect aggression than men, and are just as verbally aggressive as men (see my driving research).  Men tend to be more violent than women because, among other things, there is greater physical contact, which poses an increased threat and danger which men feel they are capable of handling.




      Vengeance is defined as the infliction of harm on another in response to some perceived injustice.

      In previous work in the driving environment, my research with Dr. David Wiesenthal at York University has shown that a vengeful attitude is highly linked with aggression and violence on the roadway.  We have developed and refined the Driving Vengeance Questionnaire as a tool to measure the tendency to react vengefully to common driving situations.

      My current interest in vengeance involve how a vengeful attitude can impact on aggressive and violent behaviors at work and among parents of little league athletes (yes, some parents are idiots, but most are not—we’re trying to find out some potential personality indicators, such as vengefulness, of the aggressive ones).



Daily Hassles and Stress

      Stress is a set of negative responses (negative mood, physiological arousal, anxiety etc) to situations or events that are perceived as negative or overly demanding. 

      Most people experience a variety of daily annoyances or hassles.  Individually they may not be seen as very demanding, but when they accumulate people can experience stress.

      I have also applied my stress research to the driving environment.  In general, personal and situational factors interact to determine driver stress levels, but negative experiences from outside the driving environment (hassles) have a significant impact on stress while actually driving.  Further, we have demonstrated that driver stress can increase aggression in the driving environment. 

      As a result, my current interests involve the potential for driver stress to carry forward to the work environment to impact workplace stress and workplace aggression.



Driver Space

      My most recent interest is in how drivers extend their personal space around their vehicle.  Our introductory work has shown that this space is different across age and gender.  Interestingly, men and women have similar preference for space in low congestion conditions, but women are more realistic and shrink that space in high congestion (there are more vehicles that are closer together so space really does diminish) while men enlarge that space preference.  We’ve also shown that those who are more prone to fatigue when driving and have past collisions show a greater space preference, but interestingly desire for control is unrelated to space preference.  We take this to indicate the possibility that space preference may be less a function of control and more of a “buffer” zone.   



Gender Roles

      Most of my interest in the impact of gender roles is linked to the fact that we have repeatedly found female drivers to be as aggressive as male drivers (although male drivers are more vengeful and violent).

      One potential reason for this equality of aggression is that the driving environment offers a unique environment that allows women to act counter to social roles that pressure them to behave in a non-aggressive manner.  Specifically, driving provides elements of anonymity, easy escape, and a powerful weapon (the vehicle) that can provide women an opportunity to behave aggressively.