How Can Environmental Film Affect Audience Climate Change Belief, Concern, and Behavior?

Authors: Brittany Bondi*, Gettysburg College, Salma Monani, Gettysburg College, Sarah Principato, Gettysburg College, Christopher Barlett, Gettysburg College
Topics: Communication, Environment
Keywords: Climate Change Communications, Environmental Film, Audience Reception Studies
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

With the growing threat of climate change, environmental communicators are faced with the daunting challenge of increasing people’s belief in climate change and inspiring eco-friendly action. Many use film to get their message out. However, how effective are such films? While previous studies demonstrate an immediate effect of a film post-screening, this study also sought to understand if a film can inspire longer-term effects. We screened the environmental documentary, The Human Element (Prod. Earth Vision Institute, 2018), to undergraduate students at Gettysburg College (n=98) and Alma College (n=31). Building upon previous studies, we utilize a pre- and post-test design to assess undergraduates’ self-reported climate change belief, concern, and behavior. Participants took a total of 3 surveys: one immediately before watching the film, one immediately after, and one 9-weeks post-film. In addition, between taking surveys 2 and 3, half of participants received weekly supplemental information on climate change via a custom website, while the other half served as a control. The Friedman Test and Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test help determine the statistical significance of our results. Preliminary results show that the film shifts students’ beliefs along the Six Americas scale from “Concerned” to “Alarmed” such that they are not only concerned about climate change, but also more motivated to act to address it both immediately and 9 weeks after. These preliminary results suggest the longer-term value associated with watching environmental film.

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