Suggested Citation: Axsen, Jonn and Kenneth S. Kurani (2010) Interpersonal Influence and Pro-Societal Consumption: A Review of Diffusion, Conformity, Dissemination, Translation and Reflexivity. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, Working Paper UCD-ITS-WP-10-05
Understanding consumption behavior will facilitate the successful deployment of new pro-societal products and behaviors. Interpersonal influence is thought to play an important role in the successive adoption of pro-societal products and behaviors within groups across time, but processes of influence are poorly understood. This paper begins by presenting a typology for new products according functional, symbolic and pro-societal attributes. We then identify and summarize five perspectives on interpersonal influence and pro-societal consumption behavior. Contagion focuses on the effect of functional information flowing among people or groups. Conformity focuses on individual thresholds and motivations to mimic others. Dissemination is the intentional diffusion of information by a core group of motivated individuals. Translation is the tendency for various social groups to negotiate interpretations and valuations of the technology. Finally, reflexivity is a theoretical framework that explains the motivations of individuals seeking to establish lifestyle practices consistent with their self concept in an uncertain modern world. We describe strengths and weaknesses of each perspective and suggest complementarities.