Commuting by car or public transportation? A social dilemma analysis of travel mode judgements

M. van Vugt*, P.A.M. van Lange, R.M. Meertens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


the current paper analyses judgements regarding the decision to commute by car versus public transportation in terms of a conflict between immediate self-interest and long-term collective interest (i.e. Social dilemma). Extending traditional formulations of rational choice theory, the present study revealed that preferences for public transportation (i.e. The presumed cooperative option) in a standard commuting situation were enhanced not only by the belief that public transportation provided a shorter average travel time than car (i.e. The presumed noncooperative option), but also by the belief that public transportation was at least as reliable (i.e. An equal or lower variability in travel time compared to car). Moreover, paralleling prior research on experimental social dilemmas, preferences were found to be affected by a pro-social concern—the belief regarding the impact of cars on the level of environmental pollution. Our findings indicated that any combination of two such considerations (i.e. Travel time, variability, and impact of cars on pollution) was m ore effective in promoting public transportation preferences than the sum of their separate effects. Finally, we obtained evidence that commuter preferences were also shaped by individual differences in social value orientations (i.e. Preferences for patterns of outcomes for self and others) in that, relative to pro-self commuters, pro-social commuters exhibited greater preference for public transportation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-395
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1996

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