Car Versus Public Transportation? The Role of Social Value Orientations in a Real-Life Social Dilemma1

Authors

  • Mark Van Vugt,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Health Education University of Limburg Maastricht, The Netherlands
      Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Mark Van Vugt, Department of Health Education, University of Limburg, P.O. Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands.
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  • Ree M. Meertens,

    1. Department of Health Education University of Limburg Maastricht, The Netherlands
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  • Paul A. M. Van Lange

    1. Free University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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  • 1

    This research was supported, in part, by a grant to Mark Van Vugt and Ree Meertens from the Netherlands Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, and by a grant to Paul Van Lange from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO; Grant No. R-57–178). Part of this research was presented at the Nags Head conference on social value orientations, Highland Beach, Florida, July 1993. The authors thank Jeff Joireman, Gerjo Kok, and Wim Liebrand for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of the paper.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Mark Van Vugt, Department of Health Education, University of Limburg, P.O. Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands.

Abstract

This research evaluates the role of social value orientations (i.e., preferences for distribution of outcomes for the self and others) in decisions as how to commute. It was proposed that the commuting situation could be viewed either as an environmental issue, reflecting the decision structure of an N-person Prisoner's Dilemma, or as an accessibility problem, reflecting the decision structure of an N-person Chicken Dilemma. On the basis of interdependence theory (Kelley & Thibaut, 1978) it was predicted that people who are primarily concerned with the collective welfare—prosocial individuals—would prefer commuting by public transportation when other commuters were expected to go by public transportation. On the other hand, it was hypothesized that people who are primarily concerned with their own well-being—proself individuals—would prefer commuting by public transportation when others were expected to go by car. The obtained findings were consistent with these expectations. Practical and theoretical implications regarding the link between social value orientations and environmentally relevant behavior will be discussed.

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