The Psychology of ParkingScience project video

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Adult supervision is recommended as this science project involves interviewing strangers.


Ever go someplace like the grocery store or the mall and noticed how people park? Some people feel a need to back into a parking space; some take up two parking spaces, and then there are those who park in handicapped spaces even though they do not qualify. In this experiment, you will conduct a survey on these parking behaviors and attempt to understand the thought processes of the drivers.


Investigate the frequency of different parking styles and understand the mindset of the drivers.


While the aim of this science project is to identify the frequency of different parking behaviors and the thought process of the drivers, the experiment needs to be carried out in an unbiased, non-judgmental manner. People will not open up to sharing information about themselves if they feel that they are being judged. Also, it is important that when you speak to the drivers, you clearly state that this is an experiment that is being conducted anonymously and that no identifiable information of the driver will be used. As it may be difficult to locate drivers of the studied vehicles, you can directly approach people who you know engage in these parking behaviors, to interview them.

Scientific Terms

Psychology, Personality


  • Parking lot - you can select a busy parking lot at a mall or supermarket
  • A sample of a minimum of 100 parked cars
  • writing materials (to record your findings)
  • Adult supervision (recommended).
  • Calculator (Recommended)
  • Mircosoft Excel or Google docs spreadsheet (Recommended)


1. Approximate the number of cars in the parking lot. For larger parking lots, estimate the number cars by counting the number of cars in a section of the parking lot (Example: Pick an area that is an approximately a quarter of the total area of the parking lot and multiply the number of cars by four).

2. It is recommended that you use a spreadsheet to organize and manage your data. For recording your data out "in the field", a simple tally sheet can be used:

Number of cars

Backed in

Handicap zone

Takes 2 spaces


3. Survey the parking lot for the following parking styles:

  • Backed into the parking space
  • Taking up two parking spaces
  • Illegally parked in the handicap zone

4. Record the following data:

  • The total number (or estimate) of cars in the parking lot.
  • The total number of cars for each category of "parking style".

5. Divide the total number of cars in a given category by the total number of cars in the parking lot. This will give you the percentage of cars for the specific category. For example:

  • If there are four cars that take up two parking spaces and there are a total of 100 cars in the parking lot, divide four by 100.
  • Multiply the result by 100 and this will give you the percentage of cars taking up two parking spots:
  • 4/100= .25, .25 x100= 25%

6. Repeat this procedure for each category and record your results.

  • If you are able to speak to the drivers, be polite, greet them and then mention the following: "I am doing a survey on parking behavior as part of a science project for my school. Would you be able to help me with a few questions?"
  • If the driver agrees, say the following:
  • "What was your reason for (backing into the parking spot, taking up two spots, or parking in a handicap zone) ?

7. Be sure to phrase the question "What was your reason?" instead of "Why did you park?." Saying "Why" may imply to the driver that he or she is being judged.

8. The second question would be "Is this how you normally park?

9. Write down the drivers' responses and thank them for their time.

10. If you are not able to interview a driver for a certain parking style category, you can interview someone you know who engages in this kind of behavior.

11. Review the results from the interview and check for any common patterns in the responses.

12. Create a profile for each parking category by identifying the patterns from the interviews for each category along with the statistic. Example:

  • What is the frequency of the specific behavior for all parking lots studied?
  • What portion of the participants engages in the behavior habitually?
  • Driver's reasons for their behavior.

Can you draw a conclusion on the drivers?


Our behavior is a reflection of our beliefs and on the value systems by which we live. Studies show that how we interact with inanimate objects project our mindset. Examples of this are road rage, hoarding, and addictions. These situations are examples of the inner world being projected to the external world. A driver engaging in road rage is using his car to express frustration. The hoarder is attached to material objects for inner security, and addictions provide an escape from experiencing certain feelings. Someone who is addicted to gambling immerses himself in gambling because the feelings associated with this activity prevent him from experiencing other feelings that point to the root of other problems he may be facing. Reflect on your relationship with the external world. Examples are a - chronically messy room, excessive video game playing or texting, or being over conscientious about the cloths you wear. What do these behaviors say about you?

Questions & Answers

How can the way someone parks reveal his or her personality?

Our behavior and how we perceive the world around us, is a reflection of our inner being.

Make it Your Own

Repeat this experiment using two groups: Those who are frequent mediators and those who do not mediate.