Social construction of scientifically grounded climate change discussions

Janet K. Swim, Nathaniel Geiger, Julie Sweetland, John Fraser

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

28 Scopus citations


The present paper examines the role of conversations in improving public engagement in climate change, and discusses how to improve these conversations by grounding them in climate science and by using tools identified in empirical research on climate change messaging. We review empirical findings on how messages can be optimized to increase their «spreadability» (i.e. messages that are most likely to be understood, remembered, and repeated from one person to another) and influence engagement climate change action. After describing general communication strategies, we present a specific example of the development, teaching, and use of these messages among educators at informal science learning centers, and research evaluating the impact of this training on educators’ conversations with their social contacts (colleagues, friends and family). The results of this research indicate that, due to educators’ frequency and use of strategies taught in the training, their social contacts’ understanding of climate change improved, as did their hope about their ability to address climate change. These improvements were positively associated with the likelihood that the social contacts engaged in group-based pro-environmental actions, including talking about climate change, and therefore increased the spread of the message.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPsychology and Climate Change
Subtitle of host publicationHuman Perceptions, Impacts, and Responses
Number of pages29
ISBN (Electronic)9780128131305
ISBN (Print)9780128131312
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


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