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Car use: lust and must. Instrumental, symbolic and affective motives for car use


  • Steg, Linda


This paper reports results of two questionnaire studies aimed at examining various motives for car use. In the first study, a random selection of 185 respondents who possess a driving licence were interviewed. Respondents were recruited from the cities of Groningen and Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The sample of the second study comprised a random selection of 113 commuters who regularly travelled during rush hours in and around Rotterdam, a region in the west of the Netherlands. First, it was examined which categories of car use motives may be distinguished. As proposed by Dittmar's (1992) [The social psychology of material possessions: to have is to be. Havester Wheatsheaf, Hemel Hempstead, UK; St. Martin's Press, New York] model on the meaning of material possessions, results from both studies revealed that car use not only fulfils instrumental functions, but also important symbolic and affective functions. Second, it was studied to what extent these different motives are related to the level of car use. From the results of study 2, it appeared that commuter car use was most strongly related to symbolic and affective motives, and not to instrumental motives. Third, individual differences in the relative importance of the three categories of motives were investigated. In both studies, most group differences were found in the evaluation of the symbolic and affective motives (and not the instrumental ones). Especially frequent drivers, respondents with a positive car attitude, male and younger respondents valued these non-instrumental motives for car use. These results suggest that policy makers should not exclusively focus on instrumental motives for car use, but they should consider the many social and affective motives as well.

Suggested Citation

  • Steg, Linda, 2005. "Car use: lust and must. Instrumental, symbolic and affective motives for car use," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 39(2-3), pages 147-162.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:transa:v:39:y:2005:i:2-3:p:147-162

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Mokhtarian, Patricia L & Salomon, Ilan & S, Lothlorien, 2001. "Understanding the Demand for Travel: It's Not Purely 'Derived'," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt5bh2d8mh, University of California Transportation Center.
    2. Mokhtarian, Patricia L. & Salomon, Ilan, 2001. "How derived is the demand for travel? Some conceptual and measurement considerations," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 35(8), pages 695-719, September.
    3. Jensen, Mette, 1999. "Passion and heart in transport -- a sociological analysis on transport behaviour," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 19-33, January.
    4. Tertoolen, Gerard & van Kreveld, Dik & Verstraten, Ben, 1998. "Psychological resistance against attempts to reduce private car use," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 171-181, April.
    5. Sachs, Wolfgang, 1983. "Are energy-intensive life-images fading? The cultural meaning of the automobile in transition," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 3(3-4), pages 347-365, September.
    6. Stradling, S. G. & Meadows, M. L. & Beatty, S., 2000. "Helping drivers out of their cars Integrating transport policy and social psychology for sustainable change," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 207-215, July.
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