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Why do slow walkers enrage some people and not others?

So you're hoofing it home from work after a long day only to encounter the most irritating of obstacles: the dreaded slow walker.

This sidewalk blocker doesn't know to stick to one side (or worse, weaves back and forth), is often distracted on their cell phones, hogging all the sidewalk space and obtuse to your desire to get moving on by. If that's a pet peeve, apparently you're not alone - as the Facebook groups (I HATE SLOW WALKERS) and the raging blog posts indicate.

Now researchers have started studying sidewalk rage to see why some people keep calm and others flare up. Leon James, a psychologist at the University of Hawaii, and an expert in road rage, identifies these traits of the sidewalk rage: blocking the way on purpose, muttering or bumping into people, making a nasty face or staring in a hostile manner.

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He has even developed a test to gauge it: the Pedestrian Aggressive Syndrome Scale. (People who score high, as the Wall Street Journal observes, might commiserate among the 15,000 members of the Facebook Group "I secretly want to Punch Slow Walking People in the Back of the Head.")

According to another study, the slowest walkers are tourists, followed by smokers and cell phone users.

Another researcher told the Wall Street Journal that sidewalk ragers tend to have a clear set of rules that everyone should follow: namely stick to one side or get our of the way if you are going to take a picture, light up a cigarette or dial a number on your cell phone.

The best approach to douse your rage: don't fume to yourself about how late you are or run through a list of angry comebacks. Instead, suggested Jerry Deffenbacher, a professor at Colorado State University, take a breath and sigh, "oh well, sometimes this happens."

Otherwise you might end up like Robert Smith, a Torontonian charged in 2005 with assault after smacking an elderly woman with his cane when each refused to make room for the other. (The woman, to be fair, did her share of smacking with her own cane - just not as hard.)

And if you happen to be one of those much-maligned slow walkers, carry on enjoying the sights. Just do everyone else a favour, and watch your back.

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