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Cognitive Dissonance in Sustainability Scientists Regarding Air Travel for Academic Purposes: A Qualitative Study

Isabel Schrems () and Paul Upham ()
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Isabel Schrems: Faculty of Sustainability, Leuphana University of Lüneburg, 21335 Lüneburg, Germany
Paul Upham: Faculty of Sustainability, Leuphana University of Lüneburg, 21335 Lüneburg, Germany

Sustainability, 2020, vol. 12, issue 5, 1-14

Abstract: The purpose of this study is to investigate in depth the perspectives of sustainability scientists regarding academic air travel, with an emphasis on cognitive dissonance and associated coping and rationalisation strategies. The research design is case study-based, focusing on a sustainability-focused academic unit in Germany. Thematic content analysis was applied to the transcripts of 11 interviews with sustainability scientists. Analytic codes were informed by prior previously identified cognitive dissonance reduction strategies. The research design is interpretative rather than seeking representativeness. Most of the academics questioned experience some degree of cognitive dissonance relating to the disjunction between their sustainability knowledge, attitudes and flight behaviour. While this dissonance relates—as expected—to the inconsistency between pro-environmental attitudes and flying, it also relates to the contradiction of social norms that support academic flying. To resolve feelings of dissonance, the interviewees report behavioural change, suppress inconsistencies and use various justifications that include denial of control, denial of responsibility, comparisons and compensation through benefits.

Keywords: flying; academic; sustainability; scientists; cognitive dissonance (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: Q Q0 Q2 Q3 Q5 Q56 O13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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