Author Archives: Federico Giorgilli

Why the ‘why’ matters

Cars stopped in traffic

What sets MIND-SETS apart from other studies of user behaviour?

Traditionally, transport studies have looked at the “what” and the “how” of user behaviour, without considering the “why”. Yet it is crucial to understand users’ underlying incentives and motivations if we want to contextualize behavioural choices within a rapidly changing world, and more importantly, if we wish to design the kind of policies, products and services that will address user needs now and in the future.

So why do people choose certain trips over others? For a long time it was thought that travellers made rational, calculated trade-offs of time vs. money.  But it’s really not that simple. There are emotional aspects to travel decisions, such as comfort level and predictability. Particularly during certain life stages, many people show a strong preference for habitual routes with no surprises over less expensive/faster but potentially more volatile ones.

How can we better understand the travel decision process?

Traditional modelling and forecasting techniques have relied on a number of different fields, from physics to statistical modelling and even the social sciences to predict hCars stopped in trafficow changes in the mobility system might lead to behavioural change among users. MIND-SETS takes this multi-disciplinary approach a step further by combining old disciplines with new insights. For example, hybrid choice models are able to incorporate intangibles such as habits, beliefs, attitudes and perceptions into utility-based economic models of behaviour, creating a more accurate picture of how people truly make decisions. Other psychological factors such as social influence, the impact of uncertainty, and overconfidence can lead people to make decisions that older models of mobility behaviour would not be able to predict.

What do travellers really want?

In short, the old way of thinking simply isn’t able to give manufacturers and travel service providers the intelligence they need to develop the kinds of products and services that people really want. Nor does it show political decision makers how to nudge people towards more sustainable alternatives, or how to create policies that level the playing field between the transport haves and the transport have-nots. These, really, are the goals of MIND-SETS: to create truly useful intelligence encompassing all aspects of the mobility decision-making process.

How technology is transforming mobility

Connected on the train

Tell me what you drive what pictures you post on Facebook and I’ll tell you who you are

Social networks and applications are where the physical and virtual worlds collide, enabling the rapid rise of new versions of existing forms of mobility. For example, online ridesharing services such as BlaBlaCar, carsharing services such as Enjoy and Car2Go and alternative taxi services such as Uber and Lyft are revolutionising the way we travel. With smartphones and new apps we are no longer limited to trains, buses, official taxis and rides with people we know.

The internet community is the new neighbourhood, with trust established virtually, thanks to the perception of a close-knit cyber communiBehavioral_contextsty whose social rules mimic those of the real one. The user rating process has replaced village gossip and censure, connections on social networks have replaced kinship bonds, and all of these, at their best, function to ensure community norms and expectations are met.

Of course, these forms of behavioural control only work because humans are predisposed to seek conformity and social approval. For this reason, mobility choice models need to consider social influences, yet a majority of mobility surveys do not gather this information. One way to understand these influences is to break them down into different contexts: behavioural context (how much effort do I need to make?), social context (will this increase or decrease my social status?), internal context (is this how I see myself?) and external context (how much will this cost me in terms of time or money?). These elements lead to an assessment of intrinsic value, which is no longer just a question of safety and convenience, but increasingly one of “is this how I want to appear to others?

The haves and have nots, then and now

In the past, high status might have been conveyed through an expensive car and low status through the use of public transportation. This is now changing as connectedness, the latest smart devices and an influential Facebook or Twitter page impart an instant prestige that transcends profession and geography. In this new world, mobility is infused with meaning as both the source of emotionally and socially fulfilling experiences and as a potential arbiter of status.

So if the use of public transportation and the sharing of cars and bikes no longer is a signifier of low status, what is? Unfortunately there is a widening gap in Europe between the mobility haves and have nots, those who because of economic factors, religion, gender, age, disability or other issues are mobility restricted.

“For low mobile groups, restricted mobility freedom may be felt in the development of low community self-esteem. This leads both to negative forms of social reinforcement within the excluded community, manifested in increasing xenophobia and an increase in radicalized behaviour, particularly where the community can build mobility discontent into a wider sense of exclusion; for example the exclusion felt by different ethnic or faith groups, women, the poor, the dependent and the disabled.”

– from an upcoming MIND-SETS report

In short, mobility restrictions chip away at a person’s sense of belonging and self-esteem. And that’s not the only negative consequence; in communities chronically deprived of mobility options, this frustration can even lead to social unrest. New trends such as personalised, customised and automated mobility seek to address some of these inequalities, but much still remains to be done in this area. For this reason, making mobility more inclusive is a key concern of the MIND-SETS project.

Talkin’ ’bout my generation

Connected on the train

But there’s one thing the family can all agree on…

An important factor for the acceptance of new technology (and thus the “new mobility”) are generational differences. Digital Aboriginals (born after 2000), Millennials (born between 1985 and 1999), Prime Busters (born between 1965 and 1984), Babybloomers (born between 1955 and 1970), and Master Boomers (born between 1940 and 1955) have dissimilar values, experiences, perceptions and priorities that will lead them to evaluate mobility options in very distinct ways. For example, Digital Aboriginals, Millennials and Prime Busters are likely to be enthusiastic about new smart solutions and collaborative mobility services, while Babybloomers and Master Boomers might be more hesitant to accept them. This has important consequences for how travel products and services are developed and marketed, and how policies might encourage greater acceptance of new products, services and technologies, particularly among those groups least likely to adopt them.

In other words, the social, psychological and generational aspects of mobility are not merely peripheral concerns to be tacked on to economic models, but are an integral part of the decision-making process.

Because mobility isn’t just transportation: mobility is identity.

It’s all a matter of perspective

An introduction to MIND-SETS

The MIND-SETS project, funded by the European Commission Horizon 2020 Programme, will look at mobility from a variety of disciplines, such as economics, sociology, behavioural psychology and urban planning. The idea is to create a more comprehensive vision of mobility that combines concepts and terminology from all of these fields, one that can provide new direction for mobility decision makers and those involved in developing and providing new products and services.

MIND-SETS is based around three guiding principles: planet (sustainability), people (inclusion) and profit (growth). In other words, its task is to make sure that mobility growth, facilitated by policy and made real through innovations and investments in the public and private sector, happens in a sustainable way and includes all levels of society. Inclusion here is particularly important, as mobility has a significant impact on people’s opportunities, their status and even their self-esteem.

But who is responsible for ensuring that mobility is profitable, inclusive and sustainable? The MIND-SETS target groups, made up of decision-makers; manufacturers and providers of travel-related products and services; transport-related associations; funding programmes; and researchers, all play crucial roles in developing policies, products and services that meet user needs, particularly the needs of the underserved. These stakeholders are the ones that stand to benefit from the project, specifically from the MIND-SETS guidelines and MIND-SETS Knowledge Centre. The guidelines and MSKC will offer a more comprehensive picture of what transport users are truly looking for and will provide recommendations enabling them to not simply fulfil but surpass expectations.


MIND-SETS kicks off with dialogues on mobility

MIND-SETS was officially launched at its kick-off meeting, held at the offices of ISINNOVA in Rome on January 21 and 22, 2015. The partners, who come from a wide variety of backgrounds, had a chance to get to know each other and to discuss the project’s core theme: mobility as related to common values and mindsets.

The partners met again at the second MIND-SETS meeting, which took place at Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel on May 26 and 27, 2015. It was an opportunity for a cross-discipline dialogue comparing ideas from a number of perspectives. Presentations were given on current mobility thinking in a variety of fields, from economics to psychology to consumer behaviour. Participants talked about the “new mobility“, influenced by generational shifts and changes in technology, as well as current theories on how people think about mobility.

Mind-Sets team