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Interpersonal influence within car buyers' social networks: applying five perspectives to plug-in hybrid vehicle drivers


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  • Jonn Axsen
  • Kenneth S Kurani
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    Abstract. Although interpersonal influence is thought to play in important role in proenvironmental consumption behavior, mechanisms of influence are not well understood. Through literature review, we identify five theoretical perspectives on interpersonal influence: contagion, conformity, dissemination, translation, and reflexivity. We apply these perspectives to car buyer perceptions of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), a technology with attributes that can be perceived as functional, symbolic, private, and societal. The context is a PHEV demonstration project in which 275 interpersonal interactions were elicited from interviews with 40 individuals in 11 different social networks in northern California. Results demonstrate how perspectives shape research findings. Contagion, conformity, and dissemination provide useful concepts regarding perceptions of functional, symbolic and societal PHEV attributes, respectively. However, translation and reflexivity provide language and theoretical depth to describe observed perceptions and motives, while also addressing dynamics in�these perceptions and in consumer values. Utilizing these differing perspectives facilitated observation that participants are more amenable to developing new, prosocieta l interpretations of PHEVs if they: (i) easily form a basic functional understanding of PHEV technology, (ii) are in a transitional state in their lifestyle practices, and (iii) find supportive prosocietal values within their social network. Results demonstrate the importance of integrating complementary research perspectives to better understand consumer valuation of technologies with environmental benefits Keywords: vehicle purchase, social interactions, plug-in hybrid vehicles, diffusion, reflexivity

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Pion Ltd, London in its journal Environment and Planning A.

    Volume (Year): 44 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 5 (May)
    Pages: 1047-1065

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    Handle: RePEc:pio:envira:v:44:y:2012:i:5:p:1047-1065

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    Cited by:
    1. McCoy, Daire & Lyons, Sean, 2014. "The diffusion of electric vehicles: An agent-based microsimulation," MPRA Paper 54560, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Páez, Antonio & López, Fernando A. & Ruiz, Manuel & Morency, Catherine, 2013. "Development of an indicator to assess the spatial fit of discrete choice models," Transportation Research Part B: Methodological, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 217-233.
    3. Axsen, Jonn & Kurani, Kenneth S., 2013. "Hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or electric—What do car buyers want?," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 532-543.
    4. Axsen, Jonn & Orlebar, Caroline & Skippon, Stephen, 2013. "Social influence and consumer preference formation for pro-environmental technology: The case of a U.K. workplace electric-vehicle study," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 96-107.


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