Does Licensing Reduce Cognitive Dissonance in the Context of Sustainable Consumption?

Broder Kai Lennart Karstens & Victor Sichu Bao

Student thesis: Master thesis


In today’s globalized and connected world, consumers are more aware than ever of the negative consequences that environmentally harmful behavior result in. Hence, an increasing number of consumers are concerned about their own environmental impact. Regardless of this, consumers still display environmentally harmful behavior, that is not in line with their attitudes. Research has found that this attitude-behavior gap in the domain of sustainability leads to the arise of cognitive dissonance, a psychological state of unease. A multitude of methods to reduce cognitive dissonance without changing one’s behavior, have been identified and studied in the past. The theory of licensing and its justification effect for behaving contrary to one’s attitude has only been studied separately and has not been connected to the cognitive dissonance theory. To address this gap in literature and research, this paper examines the impact of licensing on experienced cognitive dissonance, in the context of pro-environmental behavior, with the moderating influence of environmental concern. The data was collected utilizing an online survey and consists mostly of participants from northern Europe, resulting in a sample of 315 individuals. T-tests, Cohen’s d and linear regression were used to analyze the data and test the hypothesized relationships between cognitive dissonance, environmental concern, and licensing. The results indicate that proceeding with an environmentally harmful choice leads to more experienced cognitive dissonance, which is partly moderated by the individuals environmental concern. Licensing however did not lead to the hypothesized decrease in cognitive dissonance, indicating that it has no effect on experienced cognitive dissonance.

EducationsMSc in Brand and Communications Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages128
SupervisorsJan Michael Bauer & Laura Krumm