Schill, M. and Shaw, D. (2016), Recycling today, sustainability tomorrow: Effects of psychological distance on behavioural practice

European Management Journal, 34 (4), 349–362.


Much research has reported an attitude-behaviour gap in ecological behaviours. This research seeks to contribute important insights to this literature through a study that uses construal level theory (CLT) to understand the role and impact of psychological distance in explaining sustainable and recycling behaviours. Using a qualitative approach, the research found that consistency between mental construal and all dimensions of psychological distance was pertinent to recycling and sustainable behaviours. While theoretically CLT suggests there should be consistency across psychological distance dimensions and mental construal, there is limited research that explores all distance dimensions. Further, highlighted was the need for a near distance perspective to move individuals to behavioural action. Contrary to previous research, this served to facilitate rather than inhibit behavioural action. Finally, the results suggest that where sustainable behaviours are facilitated and/or required engagement in behaviour can be increased. These findings are important for public policy by highlighting the need to represent recycling behaviour in terms of temporal, spatial, social and hypothetical closeness.

Keywords: Construal level theory; psychological distance; recycling; sustainability; consumer

Schill M. and Shaw D. (2016), Recycling Today, Sustainability Tomorrow: Effects of Psychological Distance on Behavioural Practices, European Management Journal, 34, 4, 349-362.


Marie Schill is an Assistant Professor at the University of Reims Champagne Ardenne. Her research interests focus on daily practices in the consumption field and sustainable development in the familial context. She has publications in recognised conferences including French Marketing Association, Advances in Consumer Research and Transformative Consumer Research.

Deirdre Shaw is Professor of Consumer Research and Marketing at the Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow. Her research interests and activities concentrate on the relationships between consumers and markets. Particular emphasis is given to understanding ethical consumption practices and lifestyles, anti-consumption sentiment, voluntary simplicity and spirituality. She has publications in internationally recognised journals including Psychology and Marketing, European Journal of Marketing, Journal of Business Ethics and Journal of Marketing Management.