2: Segmentation in behaviour change

Dr Adrian Davis

Segmentation is increasingly recognised as an important tool in delivery of travel behaviour change away from car use. In simple terms, some individuals and groups are more amenable to travel behaviour change than others. Approaches to segmentation have been developed in transport planning from the 1970s. 1 Behaviour change has also been a major focus of health psychology and health promotion and segmentation has been applied through various models such as the Stages of Change model (Pre-contemplation; Contemplation; Preparation; Action; Maintenance). 2

An influential recent paper on segmentation by Anable3 identified six distinct psychographic groups, each with varying degrees of mode switching potential. Each group represents a unique combination of preferences, worldviews and attitudes, indicating that different groups need to be serviced in different ways to optimise the chance of influencing mode choice behaviour.

GroupMode switching potential
Malcontented MotoristsHigh moral responsibility to reduce car use
Complacent car addictsDo not see many problems with car use, nor point of reducing it
Die hard driversLowest desire to reduce car use, highest psychological car dependency
Aspiring environmentalistsFeel the most responsible for environmental problems; don’t enjoy car use
Car-less crusadersSimilar to above, although have more romantic view of nature
Reluctant ridersNot particularly motivated by environmental issues

Malcontented motorists who currently exhibit high car use also demonstrate a relatively high intention to change. Anable concluded:

  • concentrating on those who already use alternative modes a little to use them more and those who express a willingness to reduce car use to start
  • small individual changes can have significant effects on total numbers of alternative mode users.
  • Malcontented motorists should respond to promotional messages which remind them of the frustrations encountered with current levels of congestion together with messages which reinforce their moral imperatives and potential relaxing qualities of public transport.

Hence, the segmentation approach illustrates that policy interventions need to be responsive to the different motivations and constraints of various groups (nb strong crossovers with Social Marketing).

A hard copy of this week’s paper will be on my desk for those wanting more details.


1 Heggie, I., 1977 Putting Behavior into Behavioral Models of Travel Choice, Transport Studies Unit Oxford University, TSU ref: 061.

2 Prochaska, J., Marcus, B. 1994 The transtheoretical model: Applications to exercise, in Dishman, R. (ed) Advances in exercise adherence, Champaign.

3 Anable, J. 2008 ‘Complacent Car Addicts’ or ‘Aspiring Environmentalists’? Identifying travel behaviour segments using attitude theory, Transport Policy, 12: 65-78.

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