Mobility as a Lifestyle Concept – Layers of decision making

The strength and importance of mobility has been understated in the past due to its restricted definition as the ability to travel from A to B. This view of mobility clouds the important ways in which mobility contributes to physical and psychological well-being, to personality, to social identity, and to lifestyle. The way we use mobility is changing; travel is not just physical, and it is not just about getting to the destination. We must consider the less “visible” influences on mobility behaviour if we are to better understand, and change, people’s travel decisions.

• Traditional ways of looking at mobility take no account of the environment or social context of the decision.

• Therefore we must take account of the “layers” of mobility decision making – taking consideration of the barriers, constraints, and motivations that also influence our choices..

• Mobility is no longer just about travelling from A to B.

Why is a new approach (to understanding mobility behaviour) needed?

The strength and importance of mobility has been understated in the past due to its restricted definition as the ability to travel from A to B. This view of mobility clouds the important ways in which mobility contributes to physical and psychological well-being, to personality, to social identity, and to lifestyle.

Much of the conventional thought on mobility focuses on the actions of individuals, and takes no account of the influence of others or the environment on the behaviour of the individual. This way of thinking misses the importance of our relationship with the built environment, and the way in which it affects our physical and mental lives; influencing our physical and psychological well-being, and even subtly shaping our behaviours.

The role of mobility in society is changing. It is redefining the abilities of individuals to move about in time and space to satisfy their activity needs, thereby influencing the chances and opportunities that are available to those individuals. Travel time is no longer ‘wasted time’. The private car is no longer the only channel through which to project your personality.

Therefore, this changing role of mobility is changing the way we live our lives. The way in which we use mobility to facilitate the activities that are important to our lifestyle choices and to us is a reflection of what mobility means to us, as individuals; and how we perceive ourselves within our society. The human dimension of the mobility mind-sets approach posits that individual (e.g. values, personal norms, personality characteristics), social (e.g. social norms, cultural norms, social environment), and contextual (e.g. physical environment, objective elements associated with travel) must be considered to understand the role of mobility in society, and the decision-making process for mobility choices.

The different layers of decision making

Building on this, we can identify four ‘arcs’, which reflect different ‘levels’ within the individual decision-making process, and therefore influencing, to different extents, the resulting mobility behaviours. These ‘arcs’ reveal a series of factors that, in combination, come together to define the role of mobility in our lives, and how we perceive the different options available to us.

We build on traditional models of decision-making – understanding that perceptions of time and cost do still play a part in the decision-making process. However, through this model, we show that it is important to consider not only these factors, but also factors that play a less visible part in people’s mobility choices; are less easy to quantify, but play a large role in determining how people perceive different forms of mobility, and determining the values that they place on different aspects of mobility.

Notably, this model enables us to see how people’s core beliefs and values can interact with the environment and society around them to influence their mobility behaviours.

Objective elements

The outer layer of the model shows the ‘objective’ elements of mobility decisions. These are decisions and choices based on quantifiable and comparable concepts, such as time and cost of the decision or based on contextual characteristics, such as where people live and their physical environment. It is often assumed that there is a point at which one factor will be

Perceptual filter

Although these objective elements do influence mobility and lifestyle choices, it is not the elements themselves, but rather the perceptions of the elements that influence the choice. These perceptions can be influenced by experiences, heuristics (mental shortcuts or assumptions), or by the inner layers of this model.

These perceptions can lead to biased judgements rather than actual considerations. A clear example of this is how people perceive the use of their private car as less costly compared to using modes such as public transport on a daily basis. This is because the upfront cost of the car is no longer a part of the choice-making process. This layer attempts to explain how different choice attributes, or different aspects of mobility, can be perceived as more or less important when compared to other factors, and how these decisions can be strongly dependent on the context in which they are made.

Research supports that values and personality characteristics also affect your perceptions of the world around you. The inner layers of the model therefore represent the deeper, more personal influences on behaviour and lifestyle choices.

Value sets and beliefs

The next layer encompasses value sets and beliefs. These can be those of an individual, or reflect those of a wider societal or social group; the way in which we use mobility to act out our lifestyle is not only a result of isolated, individual choices; but also reflects our many interactions and relationships within our environment.

These determine people’s drives and motivations; and therefore can influence how they express themselves through their mobility. For instance, a person who values time-efficiency is more likely to choose the faster travel mode; a person who values comfort is more likely to choose a more comfortable transport mode at the expense of lower time-efficiency. The value placed on different aspects of mobility or lifestyle will affect propensity to change behaviour, and reactions to the behaviour of others around you – it is within this layer that we can see changes as a result of the environment and context around us.

The values that we express in our mobility and lifestyle choices are also shaped by the social norms, behaviour and expectations of those around us, particularly by those that we respect or look up to. Humans are social beings; with a desire to be accepted within our peer and social groups. In new contexts, we often adopt behaviours that appear to be the expected way of doing things. This conformity behaviour can explain how particular behaviours can persist in certain contexts, even if they are no longer optimal – these behaviours become habitual, and are perceived as the expected way of behaving. For example the use of the private car started as a trend; an expression of success. This became habit for many and became the mobility norm.

People now live and work in a variety of different peer groups, in both the physical and virtual world, each emanating their own set of social norms and expectations. The way in which we respond to these different social pressures is influenced by our deeper personality characteristics; influencing whether we adopt these norms as our own, or merely externally align our behaviour to that of others.

Personality construct

The inner core of the model encompasses the personality construct of the individual. This is the part of us that determines how we interact with society – whether we desire to conform or ‘stand out from the crowd’ – and the basis on which we form our values and beliefs.

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