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Old habits die hard? The fragility of eco-driving mental models and why green driving behaviour is difficult to sustain

Pampel, Sanna M.; Jamson, Samantha L.; Hibberd, Daryl; Barnard, Yvonne


Sanna M. Pampel

Samantha L. Jamson

Daryl Hibberd

Yvonne Barnard


Tangible incentives, training and feedback systems have been shown to reduce drivers’ fuel consumption in several studies. However, the effects of such tools are often short-lived or dependent on continuous cues. Several studies found that many drivers already possess eco-driving mental models, and are able to activate them, for instance when an experimenter asks them to “drive fuel-efficiently”. However, it is unclear how sustainable mental models are. The aim of the current study was to investigate the resilience of drivers’ eco-driving mental models following engagement with a workload task, implemented as a simplified version of the Twenty Questions Task (TQT). Would drivers revert to ‘everyday’ driving behaviours following exposure to heightened workload? A driving simulator experiment was conducted whereby 15 participants first performed a baseline drive, and then in a second session were prompted to drive fuel-efficiently. In each drive, the participants drove with and without completing the TQT. The results of two-way ANOVAs and Wilcoxon signed-rank tests support that they drive more slowly and keep a more stable speed when asked to eco-drive. However, it appears that drivers fell back into ‘everyday’ habits over time, and after the workload task, but these effects cannot be clearly isolated from each other. Driving and the workload task possibly invoked unrelated thoughts, causing eco-driving mental models to be deactivated. Future research is needed to explore ways to activate existing knowledge and skills and to use reminders at regular intervals, so new driver behaviours can be proceduralised and automatised and thus changed sustainably.


Pampel, S. M., Jamson, S. L., Hibberd, D., & Barnard, Y. (2018). Old habits die hard? The fragility of eco-driving mental models and why green driving behaviour is difficult to sustain. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, 57, 139-150.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 11, 2018
Online Publication Date Feb 4, 2018
Publication Date Aug 1, 2018
Deposit Date Feb 6, 2018
Publicly Available Date Feb 5, 2019
Journal Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour
Print ISSN 1369-8478
Electronic ISSN 1369-8478
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 57
Pages 139-150
Keywords Mental models; Driving simulator; Eco driving; Workload; Driver behaviour; Automatisation
Public URL
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