Date of Award

Spring 2024

Degree Type

Honors Project


College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

Ryan LeCount


What are the most constructive emotions to evoke in climate change communication for diverse groups of people in a way that encourages pro-environmental behavior? A specific communication style and subsequent emotional response may best mobilize people interested in efforts to address climate change compared to people who are less invested in the issue. In this study, 927 valid participants surveyed were randomly assigned to one of three groups: a “fear” condition, a “hope” condition, and a control condition. All participants were asked a series of questions about their demographics, identities, perceptions, values, and environmental attitudes. Following these experimental tasks, they watched a brief video to induce the corresponding treatment emotion. Finally, they indicated their likelihood of doing a range of self-reported behaviors related to tackling climate change. Participants who had higher levels of climate change belief, concern, and motivation were expected to respond with increased pro-environmental behavior under the fear condition. Conversely, those with lower levels were expected to be more likely to respond with pro-environmental behavior under the hope condition. However, with my treatments and sample, only the hope condition seemed to mobilize participants in statistically significant ways. Another important discovery was that when examining public versus private pro-environmental behaviors, distinct indicators used to measure levels of environmental attitudes and identity predicted different classifications of behaviors. Qualitative analyses were also conducted on responses to two open-ended survey questions using a grounded theory approach. My results suggest that scientists, politicians, and other messengers must differentiate between various levels of climate change belief, concern, and motivation within peoples’ identities when communicating the need for action. Finally, I point out some barriers to effective climate change communication and potential interpretations of how people can better harness the power of communication to mobilize the actions necessary to mitigate and adapt to climate change.








Departmental Honors Projects