Playing chicken on the street and the ultimate battle for power

Jun 25, 2015

There’s the unspoken agreement between two people who walk directly towards each other. You each shift a little bit to get out of the other’s way, but some people don’t like that agreement.

New York resident Cathy O’Neil noticed a certain pattern in this collision course. So she collected data implicitly by playing chicken with people who weren’t up for shifting.

On the people who didn’t shift:

And, as you might have anticipated, it’s predominantly men. White men. Women, all women, and black and Hispanic men all get out of my way, especially Hispanic men, as do most white men for that matter. But there is a certain subcategory of white men that just don’t seem to know the rule about mutual accommodation, and the result is I’ve bumped into hundreds of white men on the streets of New York over the years. Some of them even turn around and say things like, why didn’t you get out of my way?

I have a similar theory about pickup trucks on the freeway.

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