GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 178-10
Presentation Time: 10:40 AM


KIRBY, Caitlin K.1, RAPPOLEE, Eleanor1 and SINGER, Alison2, (1)Geocognition Research Laboratory, Michigan State University, 207 Natural Science, East Lansing, MI 48824, (2)Department of Community Sustainability, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824

Facts about climate change are often ineffective in impacting peoples’ climate change beliefs or environmentally-related behaviors. Multiple theories of environmental behavior utilize norms, both personal and social, in fostering environmental behavior change. Science fiction writers may also attempt to sway individuals’ perceptions of climate change through imaginings of a future impacted by climate change. The impact of these fictional narratives on individuals’ climate change perceptions and related behaviors has not been widely studied. We examined the impact of 1) personal versus social norms and 2) fiction versus non-fiction climate change readings on undergraduate students’ climate change perceptions and behaviors. Students (n=88) enrolled in an online general education science course completed a pre-survey, five intervention readings and writing responses, and a post-survey. On average, students’ climate change beliefs, risk perceptions, and behavioral intentions increased across all intervention groups. A two-way ANOVA of personal versus social norms writing prompts, fiction versus non-fiction readings, and interaction effects revealed no significant difference between students’ changes in behavioral intentions. However, trends in this exploratory research suggested that social norms and fiction writings are worth exploring as particularly effective ways to engage students in climate change discussions. Student writing responses showed that they believed that more knowledge was important in encouraging others to act, and that migration was a common suggested solution for climate change. Students in the online discussion forum often displayed agreement rather than disagreement towards each other, but had more mixed reactions towards characters and individuals in the readings. Our results reveal the potential for fictional narratives and social norms to be utilized to encourage impactful discussion around climate change.