Publication Detail

Consumer Response to Transformative Transportation Innovations: Advancing the Reflexive Participant Approach to Survey Research

UCD-ITS-RP-23-12

Journal Article

Electric Vehicle Research Center

Suggested Citation:
Axsen, Jonn, Kenneth S. Kurani, Benjamin Sovacool (2023) Consumer Response to Transformative Transportation Innovations: Advancing the Reflexive Participant Approach to Survey Research. Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Many stakeholders want to predict how consumers will respond to novel technologies and behaviors that enable transitions to low-carbon forms of mobility, energy, and related lifestyle practices. Consumer research is inherently difficult where people lack familiarity and experience. However, much research explicitly or implicitly assumes consumers are well-informed, deliberative decision-makers with defined and stable preferences—which may provide misleading conclusions. As an alternative, we propose the Reflexive Participant Approach (RPA) and offer guidelines for its usage. RPA recognizes that participants may be ignorant of the technology or practice of interest; their evaluations of it may be unformed, changeable, and even difficult to articulate. We provide guidelines for how RPA can shape five components of data collection: elicit participant background, provide deep context, prompt reflexive imagination and experience, elicit response, and follow-up with confirmation and diagnosis of the process and responses. We illustrate these guidelines using examples from published studies on alternative fuel vehicles, conducted at times and in locations when the vast majorities of households had no or little experience with them. We conclude by considering implications for analysis, limitations of the RPA, and directions for future advancement.

Key words:
Consumer behavior, Rational actor, Reflexivity, Preferences, Low-carbon technology, Electric vehicle