In the United States, if I am trying to accelerate and enter the road from say a parking lot, I try to minimize the number of misleading movements my car might make. I don’t “edge out” just for the heck of it, for fear this may spook the other drivers and cause them to suddenly switch lanes in a dangerous (for them) fashion. Furthermore, I might misjudge and move the car out too far into the lane, leading to a collision.
In Lagos, it seems the practice is to announce your intentions with as many little forward “nudges” of your car as possible. They seem to mean “I am thinking of going sometime soon.”
After enough such nudges, the oncoming cars either go far away into the left lane, or perhaps they stop for you altogether and let you go. Or maybe they slow down a bit and you decide you can beat them and so you pull into the lane.
A higher discount rate (for entering the road) is one way to rationalize this behavior, but in a variety of other contexts I have noticed Nigerians who were not massively upset at being ever so slightly late. So might there be some other explanation?
Maybe there is greater variability in rational assumptions about the other drivers. You may not know how well their cars can brake, accelerate, and perhaps their lane-switching plans and propensities are harder to predict. So by nudging your car out in successive bits, you may be “taking the temperature” of the other drivers on the road. Keep in mind that they, too, may not have a good sense of how well your car can accelerate (furthermore some of the vehicles are tuks-tuks, not cars). A willingness to make more nudges may be telling the other drivers that your engine is pretty good and your will is strong.
So they read your nudging pattern, and you draw inferences from their lane-switching and stopping responses. Ex post (one hopes), everyone has a better sense of what the other cars and drivers are capable of doing.
Of course this is speculative. The key point here is that greater variability in potential performance creates a case for sending more and smaller bits of the signal in advance.