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更新时间:2014-12-18 12:48:14 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

A Recipe for Air Rage

Why do some travelers squabble about overhead bin space? Or feud over an armrest? Why, when a passenger reclines his seat, does another respond with rage befitting the pages of “Lord of the Flies”?

为什么有些旅客会为舱顶行李箱或扶手发生口角?为什么前排乘客把椅背向后调,后排乘客会用简直可以写进《蝇王》(Lord of the Flies)式的狂怒去回应?

What makes rational travelers like you and me suddenly explode?


Some factors are environmental (packed planes, teeming gates); others are internal (stress, fatigue). Together, they can make a perfect storm. Last month at least three flights were diverted because passengers got into fights about reclining seats (and that’s to say nothing of the other unruly passenger incidents that regularly transpire). While the percentage of flights diverted each year is low — it’s been well under 0.40 percent since at least 2004, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics — even a handful of diversions due to passengers who can’t play nice is too many. We may be animals, but need we prove it on a flight to West Palm Beach?


One of the most obvious catalysts is, of course, a crowded cabin. Many seats are thinner and narrower than in the past, and planes like some 777s, which used to have only nine seats across in coach, now cram 10 across.


“When you crowd people together, there is a point at which they are no longer able to function appropriately,” said Leon James, a professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii who has studied road and air rage. Crowding breeds feelings of alienation, cynicism and anonymity. It leads, as Dr. James put it, to “a breakdown of ordinary social inhibitions” — such as controlling one’s explosive emotions.

“如果你让人们挤在一起,到了一定程度,他们就不再能做出适当的行为,”夏威夷大学研究路上和机上愤怒的心理学教授利昂·詹姆斯(Leon James)说。拥挤会滋生异化、利己和匿名的感觉。就像詹姆斯博士说的,它会导致“普通社交控制力的崩溃”——诸如控制情绪爆发等能力。

Planes today are, in a word, antisocial, he said. Little wonder that people recline their seats without a friendly warning. “They just do it,” said Dr. James, adding that it’s a sign of “impersonal hostility among passengers,” an atmosphere “created by the airlines by the way they manage the passengers.” Most airlines don’t encourage social cabin environments (more on how to do that later). Rather, he said, their service changes have reinforced the hostile climate. By increasing fees for checked bags, passengers on a budget have had to compete for overhead bin space. By eliminating hot meals in coach, travelers have resorted to carrying on their own sometimes odoriferous food at the expense of their seatmates’ noses.


I find myself thinking of John B. Calhoun’s seminal overpopulation research, published in Scientific American in the 1960s, which found that as rats were increasingly crowded together they became ever more aggressive and exhibited “behavior disturbances” from “frenetic overactivity” to “pathological withdrawal.”

我想起了20世纪60年代约翰·B·卡尔霍恩(John B. Calhoun)在《科学美国人》(Scientific American)上发表的一项关于人口过剩的重要研究。他发现,老鼠所在的空间越拥挤,它们就越好斗,表现出“疯狂的过度活跃”或“病态退缩”等“行为障碍”。

In a congested plane, it’s not just other passengers from whom we feel estranged, though.


“You feel a distance from your sense of self,” said Emma Seppala, the associate director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University School of Medicine. “You lose self-awareness,” she continued, referring to one interpretation of a psychological theory known as deindividuation, “and it’s been shown to lessen rationality.”

“你对自己的自我意识感到疏远,”斯坦福大学医学院同情与利他研究教育中心的副所长艾玛·斯帕拉(Emma Seppala)说。她继续说道,“你失去自我意识”——这是对“去个体化”(deindividuation)心理学理论的一种解释——“有证据表明,这会降低理性”。

The cabin is perhaps the most glaring environmental factor contributing to air rage, but there’s also the theater of getting to the airport and checking in: stop-and-go traffic, the obstacle course of suitcases on the curb, noise bouncing off the terminal walls, snail-like security lines, endless pings from your smartphone as work emails continue to land even as you remove your shoes and shove them into an X-ray machine.


“Evolutionarily we’re currently experiencing more stimulation than we ever have before,” Dr. Seppala said. Many people feel overtaxed and depleted, especially when traveling, and “that really impacts our self-control and willpower,” she said.


Self-control, however, is not a neat, unitary concept. It’s not as if some people have it and some people don’t.


“There are multiple ways to fail at self-control, and each of these are supported by different brain circuits,” said Joshua W. Buckholtz, an assistant professor in the department of psychology and center for brain science at Harvard. “As it turns out self-control is this heterogeneous construct, and we’re only now beginning to parse it and understand what these distinct faculties are.”

“很多因素会让我们失控,每个因素由大脑的不同回路控制,”哈佛大学心理系和脑科学中心副教授约书亚·W·巴克霍茨(Joshua W. Buckholtz)说,“结果发现,自控是个包含很多因素的复杂机制,我们现在刚开始分析它,想弄清它由哪些不同的机能组成。”

What we do know is that certain things can affect our capacity for self-control, particularly stress and sleep deprivation — which tend to be as much a part of travel as luggage.


A study by neuroscientists at New York University, published last year in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that “even mild stress can make it difficult to control your emotions.” Other studies have shown that stress can make you more self-focused, said Dr. Seppala, resulting in tunnel vision for whatever it is you want, and woe be to anyone who gets in the way.


Being jet-lagged, or simply not having had a good night’s rest, also makes you vulnerable.


“Sleep deprivation can play a really important role in making people act much more emotional,” said Iris Mauss, an associate professor in the department of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. A study by her colleague Matthew Walker, director of the university’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory, found that “without sleep, the brain had reverted back to more primitive patterns of activity,” he said in a news release, “in that it was unable to put emotional experiences into context and produce controlled, appropriate responses.”

“睡眠不足真的会让人变得更情绪化,”加州大学伯克利分校心理系副教授艾丽斯·莫斯(Iris Mauss)说。她的同事、该校睡眠与神经影像研究室主管马修·沃克(Matthew Walker)做过一项研究,他在新闻发布会上说,“大脑在缺乏睡眠的情况下回到更原始的运行模式,无法把情绪体验放在具体环境中思考,无法做出克制的适当反应。”

Stress and sleep deprivation also hurt our ability to interpret other people’s intentions and mental states. For instance, you might jump to the conclusion that the person who reclined his seat onto your lap is a jerk, when in fact maybe he’s a tired soldier returning from duty, or someone with a disability. “The very rich representations of other people’s minds become degraded and impoverished when we are stressed and sleep deprived,” said Dr. Buckholtz of Harvard. “Your predictions about other people are wrong.”


Even those who pick fights at 35,000 feet?


“They may be really nice people, but in that situation they got really deindividuated,” said Dr. Seppala of Stanford, referring to a loss of self-awareness. When we see another person act badly, we conclude, often incorrectly, that he or she is a bad person. Psychologists call this “fundamental attribution error.” After all, when we ourselves act badly, we simply say, “I had a bad day,” or “I wasn’t myself.” We don’t define ourselves as bad.


In a heated exchange, it can help to view the other person as someone who is fundamentally good, yet going through something stressful. Some people are obviously better at doing that — and at regulating their emotions — than others. They’re resilient, able to distance themselves from a stressful situation while others in the same situation fall apart. Are these stoics just born that way? Scholars like Dr. Mauss of the University of California, Berkeley, are still trying to find out. But she said being good at regulating emotion seems to be something that’s learned either early in life from, say, your parents, or later in life through conscious reflection on yourself as well as analysis of situations in which you learn to think, “this will pass,” or “it’s not relevant in the grand scheme of things.”


When our emotions are high and we’re physiologically aroused, however, it’s difficult to reason with ourselves. Thankfully, there are other ways to control the mind. Take breathing, for instance. Dr. Seppala cited a study that showed that different emotions such as joy, anger, fear and sadness, each have distinct patterns of breathing (like faster and shallow when afraid, she said). What’s revolutionary, she added, is that the study also showed that by breathing in different ways, people were actually able to generate different emotions.


“It’s the only autonomic process that can be controlled,” said Dr. Seppala, who is also the lead author of a study published last month in The Journal of Traumatic Stress that found that a breathing-based meditation was able to decrease post-traumatic stress in American military veterans. “We can learn to have an impact on our nervous system,” she said.

“它是唯一可控的自发过程,”斯帕拉博士说。她也是上月发表在《创伤压力杂志》(The Journal of Traumatic Stress)上的一项研究的主要作者。那项研究发现,以呼吸为基础的冥想能减轻美国退伍军人的创伤后压力。“我们能学会对自己的神经系统施加影响,”她说。

The breathing-based meditation that was used by the researchers is known as Sudarshan Kriya Yoga, and it has also been shown to increase self-reported “optimism and well-being” in college students, and to decrease self-reported anxiety in people with general anxiety disorder. Don’t have time for meditation or yoga? Experts say to make time, because the better you are, the better your fellow travelers will be.


“Taking care of yourself,” Dr. Seppala said, “is the most unselfish thing you can do.”


There’s plenty the airlines could be doing, too (aside from configuring planes with seats that actually fit their ticket holders). For example: Improve the cabin atmosphere.


“They have to think of the crowd as a potential community,” said Dr. James of the University of Hawaii, and enact certain community-building principles. One simple tactic is what he refers to as live demography: a flight attendant standing in front of the cabin asking questions like “How many of you are going home?” or “Raise your hand if you’ve never been on an airplane before.” It may sound like a kindergarten exercise, but it encourages passengers to relax, be friendly and communicate with one another. “It breaks the anonymity and the hostility,” Dr. James said.