COMING SOON! PQDT Open is getting a new home!

ProQuest Open Access Dissertations & Theses will remain freely available as part of a new and enhanced search experience at

Questions? Please refer to this FAQ.

Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Interpersonal influence within car buyers' social networks: Observing consumer assessment of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and the spread of pro-societal values
by Axsen, Jonn, Ph.D., University of California, Davis, 2010, 385; 3422766
Abstract (Summary)

Consumer purchase behavior is central to the successful deployment of alternative-fuel passenger vehicles, which includes non-rational processes such as social influence. This dissertation explores the role of social influence in vehicle purchase behavior via observations of car buyers’ assessments of plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles (PHEVs)—vehicles that can use gasoline and grid electricity. Five theoretical perspectives on social influence are used to analyze these behaviors: contagion, conformity, dissemination, translation, and reflexivity. I designed and implemented a multi-method, exploratory research design to engage households in semi-directed interviews, online surveys, a social-network mapping exercise and a diary of social episodes. Participants included 10 “primary” households (18 individuals) that drive a PHEV for a multi-week trial in the Sacramento, California region, and 22 “secondary” individuals that primary households recruit from their social networks.

The analysis explores three questions: (i) whether or not social interactions influence vehicle assessment and purchase behavior, (ii) how such social influence occurs, and (iii) under what conditions pro-societal motivations might develop. First, I find that social interactions do have substantial influence over the majority of participants’ assessments. Second, contagion and similar theoretical perspectives over-simplify processes of social influence, while translation and reflexivity better provide the language and theoretical depth required to integrate the observed perceptions and social processes with concepts of self-identity. Third, car buyers that are typically motivated by the private benefits of vehicles may be amenable to developing new, pro-societal interpretations of PHEVs when they: (i) are in a transitional (liminal) state in their lifestyle practices, (ii) can quickly form a basic functional understanding of PHEV technology, and (iii) find supportive prosocietal values within their social network.

A theoretical contribution of this dissertation is an integration of theoretical perspectives with my empirical observations to create a framework representing the role of social influence in purchase of pro-societal goods—what I call the Reflexive Layers of Influence (RLI) framework. Overall, this dissertation demonstrates that social influence is important, as is the development and use of behaviorally realistic theoretical frameworks to advance transportation and energy policies that rely on the widespread adoption of new technologies.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kurani, Kenneth S.
Commitee: Sperling, Daniel, Turrentine, Thomas S.
School: University of California, Davis
Department: Transportation Technology and Policy
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 71/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Alternative Energy, Environmental Studies, Behavioral Sciences, Transportation planning
Keywords: Alternative energy, Consumer behavior, Environmental policy, Social influence, Transportation, Vehicle purchase
Publication Number: 3422766
ISBN: 978-1-124-22376-6
Copyright © 2021 ProQuest LLC. All rights reserved. Terms and Conditions Privacy Policy Cookie Policy