Prius Twins

Most auto market analysts point to gas prices, payback periods or public education as the key to increasing adoption of hybrid cars and electric vehicles.

When you ask hybrid buyers, they’ll tell you that they’re doing something positive for the environment, reducing oil dependence, or investing in innovative new technologies—while saving a few pennies at the pumps. As we reported in June, behavioral economist Dan Ariely believes that Prius-buyers go hybrid to pat themselves on the back for a kind gesture for Mother Earth.

And now a new study from the Journal of Consumer Researcher says that it comes down to genetics.

The researchers behind the study, Itamar Simonson of Stanford University and Aner Sela of the University of Florida, examined an entire range of consumer decisions by identical twins, as well as non-identical twins. In many case, the identical twins made the same decision, suggesting that consumer choices are influenced by genetic factors.

While the researchers learned that identical twins share certain “tendencies”—like moderation over extremes or playing it safe instead of gambling—they also align on some specific products, including hybrid cars. Other products with genetic correlations included sci-fi movies, jazz music, chocolate, and mustard. Oddly, however, the authors said that there was no such common genetic predilection for ketchup or tattooing.

According to the authors, they hope the study shines light on why some people may be born with a tendency to ‘be in the mainstream’ whereas others tend to ‘live on the edge.”
And yet, in the face of an automobile industry making an inexorable shift toward higher efficiency and greater technological diversity, a potential genetic green car disposition among some buyers—while amusing to consider—may be among the weakest explanations for driving or not driving a hybrid or electric car.