Incorporating mental representations in discrete choice models of travel behavior: Modelling approach and empirical application

We introduce an extension of the discrete choice model to take into account individuals’ mental representation of a choice problem. We argue that, especially in daily activity and travel choices, the needs of an individual have an influence on the benefits he or she pursues in the choice of an alternative. Activated benefits and mental costs determine which attributes are considered in evaluating alternatives. The extended model considers the formation of a mental representation of a choice problem as an integral part of the choice process. We show how formation of a mental representation and making a choice can be modeled jointly in an integrated random utility maximization framework. We further show how the integrated model can be estimated based on combined observations of mental representations and choice outcomes using maximum likelihood estimation. A comparative analysis shows that observations of the mental representations may significantly improve predictions and enhance insights into situation-dependent motivations underlying preferences. We illustrate the approach using a data set that involves measurements of mental representations and choice behavior in the area of transport mode choice.

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