Psychological resistance against attempts to reduce private car use

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - car, planning - environmental impact, policy - environment


automobiles, environmental impact, behavioral research, private car use


The aim of the research was to investigate the effects of information, feedback and commitment on car use and attitudes related to car use. In a field experiment ( Full-size image ) users of private automobiles in The Netherlands monitored their travel behavior for four consecutive two-week periods. The participants received information and individual feedback about the effects of their car use on the environment and/or on their own finances. Information on public transport applicable to their situation was provided as well. Moreover, a subset of the participants committed themselves to reduce their mileage. Separate and combined effects of self-monitoring, environmental feedback, financial feedback, and commitment were analyzed. Effects on travel behavior turned out to be absent. Effects on attitudes were in some cases opposite to what was expected from a theoretical point of view as well as what was considered desirable from a policy point of view. The underlying psychological processes are discussed in terms of the social dilemma, dissonance reduction and reactance. Consequences for information campaigns are discussed.


Permission to publish abstract given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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