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


  • Jonn Axsen
  • Kenneth S Kurani


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 inthese 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

Suggested Citation

  • Jonn Axsen & Kenneth S Kurani, 2012. "Interpersonal influence within car buyers' social networks: applying five perspectives to plug-in hybrid vehicle drivers," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 44(5), pages 1047-1065, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:pio:envira:v:44:y:2012:i:5:p:1047-1065

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    Cited by:

    1. Skippon, Stephen M. & Kinnear, Neale & Lloyd, Louise & Stannard, Jenny, 2016. "How experience of use influences mass-market drivers’ willingness to consider a battery electric vehicle: A randomised controlled trial," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 26-42.
    2. Maness, Michael & Cirillo, Cinzia, 2016. "An indirect latent informational conformity social influence choice model: Formulation and case study," Transportation Research Part B: Methodological, Elsevier, vol. 93(PA), pages 75-101.
    3. Matthews, Lindsay & Lynes, Jennifer & Riemer, Manuel & Del Matto, Tania & Cloet, Nicholas, 2017. "Do we have a car for you? Encouraging the uptake of electric vehicles at point of sale," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 79-88.
    4. Wolf, Angelika & Seebauer, Sebastian, 2014. "Technology adoption of electric bicycles: A survey among early adopters," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 69(C), pages 196-211.
    5. Dumortier, Jerome & Siddiki, Saba & Carley, Sanya & Cisney, Joshua & Krause, Rachel M. & Lane, Bradley W. & Rupp, John A. & Graham, John D., 2015. "Effects of providing total cost of ownership information on consumers’ intent to purchase a hybrid or plug-in electric vehicle," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 71-86.
    6. Seebauer, Sebastian, 2015. "Why early adopters engage in interpersonal diffusion of technological innovations: An empirical study on electric bicycles and electric scooters," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 146-160.
    7. Figenbaum, Erik & Assum, Terje & Kolbenstvedt, Marika, 2015. "Electromobility in Norway: Experiences and Opportunities," Research in Transportation Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 29-38.
    8. repec:eee:transa:v:100:y:2017:i:c:p:88-104 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. 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.
    10. Uba, Chijioke Dike & Chatzidakis, Andreas, 2016. "Understanding engagement and disengagement from pro-environmental behaviour: The role of neutralization and affirmation techniques in maintaining persistence in and desistance from car use," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 278-294.
    11. Alexandros Dimitropoulos & Jos N. van Ommeren & Paul Koster & Piet Rietveld†, 2014. "Welfare Effects of Distortionary Tax Incentives under Preference Heterogeneity: An Application to Employer-provided Electric Cars," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 14-064/VIII, Tinbergen Institute.
    12. McCoy, Daire & Lyons, Sean, 2014. "The diffusion of electric vehicles: An agent-based microsimulation," MPRA Paper 54560, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    13. 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.
    14. 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.
    15. Axsen, Jonn & TyreeHageman, Jennifer & Lentz, Andy, 2012. "Lifestyle practices and pro-environmental technology," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(C), pages 64-74.
    16. Dumortier, Jerome & Siddiki, Saba & Carley, Sanya & Cisney, Joshua & Krause, Rachel & Lane, Bradley & Rupp, John & Graham, John, 2015. "Effects of Life Cycle Cost Information Disclosure on the Purchase Decision of Hybrid and Plug-In Vehicles," IU SPEA AgEcon Papers 198643, Indiana University, IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

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