Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways (STEPS), Electric Vehicle Research Center
Available online at: 10.1146/annurev-environ-062111-145049
Axsen, Jonn and Kenneth S. Kurani (2012) Social Influence, Consumer Behavior, and Low-Carbon Energy Transitions. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 37, 311 - 340
Realizing a low-carbon energy future requires pervasive changes in consumer behavior. Here, we examine the role of social influence in transitioning toward new low-carbon products and practices. We review and critique five research perspectives of how social interactions affect the spread of new behaviors through social networks: diffusion of functional information across social groups; conformity to others' behaviors; dissemination by organized, resourceful social groups motivated to promote societal goods; translation of consumers' perceptions between social groups; and reflexivity of individuals' continual search for self-development and expression through lifestyle practices, including their social context and consumption. Each perspective observes different social processes and holds different implications for policies and strategies to achieve low-carbon energy transitions. No single perspective seems adequate to characterize social influence. We conclude with a set of priorities to develop an integrative framework to guide strategy and policy.