Attribution effect in transportation choice

Attribution effect in transportation choice

It turns out, infrastructure shapes transportation choices:

In social psychology, the fundamental attribution error refers to the tendency for people to over-attribute the behaviour of others to personality or disposition and to neglect substantial contributions of environmental or situational factors.


[T]he fundamental attribution error in transportation choice: You choose driving over transit because transit serves your needs poorly, but Joe Straphanger takes transit because he’s the kind of person who takes transit.

For instance:

Let’s say you live in a suburban subdivision. You can afford to drive, and it’s the only way you can quickly and easily get to your suburban office and to the store, and pick up your child from daycare. How do you interpret the decision of other people to take transit? …. [Y]ou are going to attribute it to something about those people themselves — they’re poor, or they’re students, or they’re some kind of environmentalists.


We may have our own preferences, but the biggest influence on our choice of transportation mode is what modes are available to us and how useful they are. Above all this is determined not by culture and personality but by the kind of infrastructure and transportation service provided.

Infrastructure, then, shapes the way we move.