‘Car Pride’ in New York City vs. Houston: Towards a Cross-Cultural Comparison

Title‘Car Pride’ in New York City vs. Houston: Towards a Cross-Cultural Comparison
Publication TypePresentation
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsJoanna Moody, Jintai Li, Jinhua Zhao

Presented at the 56th Annual Conference of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP), Portland, OR, 2016

Transportation planners routinely rely on surveys or other self-report measures to understand people’s mode choice attitudes. This understanding helps shape informational campaigns and other policy interventions to nudge travel behavior toward more sustainable modes and away from single-occupancy, gasoline-powered vehicles. However, respondents may hold implicit attitudes that differ from their expressed answers to surveys because of social desirability bias, self-enhancement, or self-ignorance (Greenwald & Banaji, 1995; Nosek, Greenwald, & Banaji, 2007). This mismatch between attitudes measured through surveys and the actual preferences underlying behavior could have wide-ranging impacts on the shape and efficacy of the policy interventions meant to shape people’s behavior.

With results from an Implicit Association Test (IAT) and a survey exploring sociodemographic characteristics and travel behavior, we generate implicit and explicit measures of social status biases in the mode choice between car and bus. By social status bias we refer to people’s association of a mode with differing levels of success, wealth, or image that is often subconsciously influenced by the cultural context surrounding the travel decision. Using a novel two-part experimental design, the differences between implicit and explicit measures of bias are examined to understand how the IAT may complement or improve upon traditional survey methods to capture attitudinal biases and explain mode choice behavior. We corroborate previous research on the idea of pride as a factor in explaining car mode choice (Steg, 2004) as well as propose a new way to quantify these inherent or implicit social status biases that are controversial or difficult to consciously identify and articulate.

We explore the sociodemographic and cultural variables that help explain variation in the magnitude and direction of ‘car pride’ in  New York City vs. Houston. We'll map levels of car pride throughout the five boroughs in NYC and discuss the policy implications of these variations at the municipal level. We lay the foundation for future work comparing motivation and formation of car pride across cultures (Shi et. al., 2015) and its impact on car ownership and usage.