New Paper: Hoody, goody or buddy? How travel mode affects social perceptions in urban neighbourhoods

Dr Birgitta Gatersleben, Dr Niamh Murtagh and Emma White have a new paper published in the journal Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour examining how travel mode affects social perceptions in urban neighbourhoods.

Dr Gatersleben said about the paper:

Consider the following scenario:

‘An urban road passes alongside a park. Three youths are in the park. Someone drives past in a car and sees ‘a few lads who are up to no good’. A passenger on a bus that stops at the local stop notices them and wonders: ‘What are they up to?’ Someone cycling through the park hears them making fun of each other and a person walking past recognises their neighbour’s son and says: ‘Hi’.’

When travelling through a new environment people can and do make very quick judgements about the local conditions. This paper explores the idea that such judgements are affected by the travel mode they use. We hypothesise that drivers generate a more superficial impression of the things they observe than those who walk because they are exposed to less information. This prediction is based on social psychological research that demonstrates that information that becomes available in “thin slices” affects superficial judgements. A survey study (n = 644) demonstrated that perceptions of a less affluent area are indeed negatively related to more driving and positively related to more walking, but only for those who do not live there. Perceptions of a neighbouring affluent area are positively related to more driving. Two experimental studies (n = 245 and n = 91) demonstrated that explicit (but not implicit) attitudes towards a group of young people in an ambiguous social situation are more negative when they are viewed from the perspective of a car user in particular in relation to a pedestrian perspective.

To read the paper, visit:

Dr Gatersleben is a Senior Lecturer and MSc Environmental Psychology Course Director. Dr Murtagh is a Research Fellow in Environmental Psychology. Emma White is a PhD student whose work focuses on which elements of garden design are most preferred and restorative.

The research was supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.