Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Psychological Divergence between Urban and Suburban Chinese in Relation to Green Commuting

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Psychological Divergence between Urban and Suburban Chinese in Relation to Green Commuting

Article excerpt

In recent years, living standards in China have improved, and the use of private cars has increased in Chinese towns and cities. According to a 2014 report by the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, even when they are traveling within the range of 5 km, 44% of people in Beijing prefer to use a private car. This overuse of private cars leads to a number of serious environmental problems. Reducing pollution emissions in order to curb climate change is a focus of many international communities; thus, there are both theoretical and practical implications in regard to exploring the impact of psychological factors on green commuting, which includes taking the bus or traveling on the subway, reducing private car use, walking, riding a bicycle, and car pooling.

Many studies have been conducted on travel mode choice and, in this context, most researchers have extended the theory of planned behavior (TPB; Ajzen, 1991) by incorporating factors such as habits (Vij, Carrel, & Walker, 2013), descriptive norms (Heath & Gifford, 2002), and role beliefs (Peattie, 2010). Cluster analysis has then been used to investigate the difference between groups. For example, Valkila and Saari (2013) found that individuals who lived in an area with a high population density were more likely to adopt car pooling and other kinds of green commuting than were those who lived in an area with a low population density, and Newton and Meyer (2013) reported that the group they termed committed green showed willingness to make efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emission. However, multigroup analyses of travel mode choice have limitations, and the previous group classifications have mainly been based on psychological factors or actual behaviors, lacking more rigorous investigation of sociodemographic characteristics. Thus, in the present study, we employed place of residence as a classification criterion to identify differences in travel mode choice between urban and suburban residents in China.

Theory of Planned Behavior

The TPB is one of the most basic and influential theories of behavior decisions, and it has been widely used in past research on travel mode choice (Kerr, Lennon, & Watson, 2010; Lois, Moriano, & Rondinella, 2015; Peng & Juan, 2013). In the TPB, it is postulated that behavior is predicted by intention, which, in turn, is predicted by three sociocognitive factors: attitude, perceived norms, and perceived behavioral control. At the same time, perceived behavioral control, which reflects an individual's perception of the ease or difficulty of performing a task (Ajzen, 1991), has a direct influence on behavior. In the context of green commuting, it represents the influence of objective conditions, such as time, economic cost, and the availability of commuting infrastructure. Steg (2003) stated that the individual may view personal advantages associated with private car use as being more essential than mitigating environmental consequences is. Thus, negative situational factors, such as crowded public transport or badly designed bus routes, reduce the likelihood of green commuting.

According to the theory of reasoned action (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980; for a meta-analysis, see Sheppard, Hartwick, & Warshaw, 1988), an individual's attitude represents his or her positive or negative feelings about performing the target behavior, and subjective norms represent the individual's personal perception that most people who are important to him or her think he or she should or should not perform that behavior. Past researchers have suggested that individual consumption decisions are largely influenced by the attitudes of reference groups (Fornara, Carrus, Passafaro, & Bonnes, 2011; Nye & Hargreaves, 2010), and that individual consumers are most likely to act in a manner corresponding with the beliefs of the reference group (Wang, Zhu, & Shiv, 2012). Therefore, evaluations made by others are a key factor affecting consumption, and it is necessary to study the influence of social factors on green commuting. …

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