Psychological and behavioural approaches to understanding and governing sustainable mobility

J.E.S. Higham, S.A. Cohen, PM Peeters, S. Gössling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)


This paper introduces and explores the psychological and social factors that both contribute to and inhibit behaviour change vis-à-vis sustainable (tourist) mobility. It is based on papers presented at the Freiburg 2012 workshop. Specifically, it reviews climate change attitudes and perceptions, the psychological benefits of tourism mobilities, addictive elements of mobility and social norming effects, the attitude-behaviour gap (i.e. cognitive dissonance between understandings of, and responses to, climate change), the psychology of modal shifts, the psychology of travel speed/time and psychological explanations for the perceived importance of long distance travel. It notes that anthropogenic climate change is an inescapable reality and that tourism's share of greenhouse gas emissions appears set to rise substantially. There is little prospect of technical solutions adequately addressing this problem. The paper concludes that, while a comprehensive understanding of tourist psychology is necessary to inform policy-makers, it alone will be insufficient to achieve emission reductions, and bring tourism to a climatically sustainable pathway, if treated in isolation. Radical change in the structures of provision is also necessary. That change may take the form of infrastructure planning, including financial and economic infrastructure (e.g. taxation regimes and emission trading schemes) for sustainable mobility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)949-967
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Sustainable Tourism
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • behaviour
  • climate change
  • psychology
  • sustainable mobility
  • tourism
  • transportation


Dive into the research topics of 'Psychological and behavioural approaches to understanding and governing sustainable mobility'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this