Tired of Doom - Transient Apocalypse Fatigue And Successful Climate Change Communication
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One route to climate change mitigation is empowering individuals and households to adopt climate-friendly cognitions and behaviours. This can be done through communication. Conventional climate change communication models have proposed to confront communication targets with messages that emphasise the threat and urgency of climate action in order to provoke change. In contrast, the fear appeal literature shows that these messagesleadtorejectionanddenialofthetopic,duetoaphenomenoncalledApocalypseFatigue:a numbness resulting from confrontation with toomuchnegativeinformationwithouttheperceivedself-efficacy for removing or reducing the threat. The occurrence of Apocalypse Fatigue, according to the Stoknes communication model, depends on exposure criteria as well as on properties of the message. The model proposes fivebarrierstosuccessfulclimatechangecommunication,ofwhichtheoutertwo-doomanddistance - have been tested in this study. Literature review suggests that the amount of doomcontainedinthemessage as well as the mental construal, which depends ontheperceiveddistancetothethreatdescribed,determinethe outcome of the message on the receiver. Based on these findings, this study proposes a model ofApocalypse Fatigue. It assumes that Apocalypse Fatigue is determined by doom and distance phrasing, leading to both a depletion of theworkingmemorycapacityofthereceiver(firstresponseevaluatedinthisthesis)ordissonance, which leads to rejection and denial (second response evaluated in this thesis). Furthermore,itisproposedthat this effect is mediated by the phrasing of the distance between the message receiver and the consequences of climate change. To test the effect of doom and distance phrasing on the receiver, an experimental set-up was developed, in which participants were exposed to one of four interventions, manipulating doom and distance. Analysis revealed statistically significant effects of the doom and distance phrasing on the recall ability of message receivers, but no effects on climate change attitude. Further analysis shows that the recall ability of receivers is greater when confrontedwiththreateningversusempoweringanddistalversusproximalmessages. Comparison of means and standard deviations furthermore show thattheeffectofdoomanddistancephrasing on attitude change and recall ability are contrary to each other. These results indicate that the proposed Apocalypse Fatigue only affects attitude, and not information recall. Consequently, this thesis did not find support for Apocalypse Fatigue, butconcludesthatAFdoesnotaffectrecallability.Itconcludesonlimitations and recommendations for climate practice and future research.