2010 Outstanding Dissertation – Jonn Axsen

Dr. Axsen developed and applied qualitative and quantitative research methods within an original synthesis of theoretical approaches and applied them to the role of interpersonal influence in consumer consideration of a product with mixed private and social benefits. His “reflexive layers of influence” (RLI) was a product of his review of behavioral approaches to interpersonal influence and then distilling and reframing key concepts into an original framework to examine how and why people rely on their social networks to become aware of new ideas, translate those into meaningful assessments, and incorporate (or not) those ideas into their concepts of self, i.e., they take up a new idea, enact a new practice, or buy and use a new product.

Yet Dr. Axsen’s dissertation is not “simply” a theoretical exercise. His dissertation provides detailed and substantive conclusions with direct applicability to policy design to promote prosocietal behaviors. RLI provides a framework for policy design, implementation, and evaluation. It enables policymakers to move beyond the price and information levers to do what they can at each “layer” of interpersonal influence to enable citizen-consumers to enact pro-societal values.

This role for policy was emphasized by Jack Short, Secretary General of the International Transport Forum (ITF), upon presenting the ITF’s 2011 Young Researcher Award to Dr. Axsen: “Jonn’s study showcases how creative research can provide real value for decisions that policy makers face…The award is well-deserved, and the study will be widely read, and used, by transport policy-makers around the globe.” Dr. Axsen’s entry for the competitive ITF award was a paper based on his dissertation.

Dr. Axsen is currently an Assistant Professor at Simon Fraser University.

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