The effect of social comparisons on commute well-being

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - bike, mode - bus, mode - car, mode - mass transit, mode - pedestrian, place - north america, ridership - behaviour, ridership - commuting, ridership - perceptions


Discrete choice analysis, Social comparisons, Comparative happiness, Travel well-being, Commute satisfaction, Travel behavior


We study the effect of social comparisons on travel happiness and behavior. Social comparisons arise from exchanges of information among individuals. We postulate that the social gap resulting from comparisons is a determinant of “comparative happiness” (i.e. happiness arising from comparisons), which in turn affects subsequent behavior. We develop a modeling framework based on the Hybrid Choice Model that captures the indirect effect of social comparisons on travel choices through its effect on comparative happiness. We present an empirical analysis of one component of this framework. Specifically, we study how perceived differences between experienced commute attributes and those communicated by others affect comparative happiness and consequently overall commute satisfaction. We find that greater comparative happiness arising from favorable comparisons of one’s commute to that of others (e.g. shorter commute time than others, same mode as others for car commuters, and different mode than others for non-motorized commuters) increases overall commute satisfaction or utility. The empirical model develops only the link between social comparisons and happiness in the comparisons-happiness-behavior chain. It is anticipated that the theoretical framework that considers the entire chain will enhance the behavioral realism of “black box” models that do not account for happiness in the link between comparisons and behavior.


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


Transportation Research Part A Home Page: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/09658564