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Reflexive layers of influence (RLI): A model of social influence, vehicle purchase behavior, and pro-societal values


  • Axsen, Jonn
  • Kurani, Kenneth S.


Understanding consumer purchase behavior will facilitate the successful deployment of new vehicle technologies that offer societal benefits—such as plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEVs). To move beyond the rational actor model and similarly simplified behavioral approaches, this paper proposes an integrative, theoretically rich alternative: reflexive layers of influence (RLI). RLI is a framework that accounts for the role of social influence in an actor’s (or car buyer’s) development of pro-societal values and purchase behavior. Informed by a multidisciplinary literature review and empirical observation, RLI represents three layers that underlie the actor’s behavior; social influence is characterized by different processes at each layer. The bottom layer is the actor’s functional awareness of the vehicle, which can be influenced by the diffusion of simple information—such as the vehicle’s existence and basic purpose—from other actors or information sources. Next is the actor’s assessment of the vehicle based on perceived private and societal benefits. Assessment can be socially influenced through processes of translation, where the actor forms interpretations based on self-concept and group membership, and negotiates these interpretations through social interactions. The third layer is the actor’s self-concept—and associated values and lifestyle practices. Through reflexivity, self-concept can serve to frame the actor’s assessment, and can also be reinforced or altered according to their assessment, behavior, social interactions and perceived lifestyle practices of other actors. This paper applies the RLI framework to participants in a PHEV demonstration project as well as policy considerations.

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  • Axsen, Jonn & Kurani, Kenneth S., 2010. "Reflexive layers of influence (RLI): A model of social influence, vehicle purchase behavior, and pro-societal values," Institute of Transportation Studies, Working Paper Series qt69h5j2jf, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Davis.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdl:itsdav:qt69h5j2jf

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein, 2003. "Libertarian Paternalism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 175-179, May.
    2. Brian T. Pentland & Martha S. Feldman, 2007. "Narrative Networks: Patterns of Technology and Organization," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 18(5), pages 781-795, October.
    3. Juan Antonio Carrasco & Bernie Hogan & Barry Wellman & Eric J Miller, 2008. "Collecting Social Network Data to Study Social Activity-Travel Behavior: An Egocentric Approach," Environment and Planning B, , vol. 35(6), pages 961-980, December.
    4. Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein, 2003. "Libertarian paternalism is not an oxymoron," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue jun.
    5. Juan Antonio Carrasco & Bernie Hogan & Barry Wellman & Eric J Miller, 2008. "Collecting social network data to study social activity-travel behavior: an egocentric approach," Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 35(6), pages 961-980, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Axsen, Jonn & Kurani, Kenneth S., 2010. "Interpersonal Influence and Pro-Societal Consumption: A Review of Diffusion, Conformity, Dissemination, Translation and Reflexivity," Institute of Transportation Studies, Working Paper Series qt8f49p47g, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Davis.
    2. 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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