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Spatial Framing, Existing Associations and Climate Change Beliefs

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Tailoring climate change messages to a particular spatial scale (e.g. a specific country or region) is often seen as an effective way to frame communication about climate change. Yet the empirical evidence for the effectiveness of this strategy is scarce, and little is known about how recipients react to spatially-framed climate change messages. To learn more about the effects and usefulness of different spatial frames as a communication and engagement tool, we conducted a study in which we presented members of the general public with either a national or a global framing of climate change. In contrast to previous spatial-framing studies, the present research used semi-structured interviews - rather than survey questions - to obtain rich, in-depth information about participants' views of climate change. Irrespective of the framing, participants revealed associations that were located at various spatial scales. Moreover, when participants talked about climate change, they repeatedly switched between different spatial scales, revealing patterns that were consistent with seeking to preserve existing beliefs and preferences. These findings improve our understanding of how the public represents climate change, and provide a novel explanation as to why simple spatial framing often fails to achieve the anticipated effects.
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Keywords: Climate change; communication; framing; psychological distance; spatial representation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2018

More about this publication?
  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has a Journal Impact Factor (2019) of 2.158. 5 Year Impact Factor: 2.047.
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