Thank you, Gavin!
I seem to remember John List (or was it one of the other authors?) saying in the Freakonomics podcast devoted to this study mentioning there was no significant difference in accident rates between male and female drivers.
As for the BBC journalists/newsreaders, I’m not sure it’s even possible to say whether one person is objectively better than another. How would the BBC establish the value to it, as an organization, or to its viewers and listeners, to justify what they pay? Maybe the commercial networks provide a bit of a benchmark, but it is hardly robust.
Your point on language is very well made. I hadn’t really considered that when writing this piece (just as well, perhaps, as I am verbose enough as it is :-)). But it resonates strongly. I am reminded of a recent Hidden Brain episode on language, and how it shapes our world view. It’s a moot point whether the frequent use of comparatives is the consequence of our evolutionary tendencies, or an external reinforcing factor: I think you are absolutely right that it amplifies our behaviour.
I also agree with your conclusion: as with so many cognitive tendencies and effects, this too is beneficial in some situations, but can be detrimental in others. The trick is to know the difference. Thanks again!