Finding Effective Messaging Strategies to Encourage Low-Carbon Behaviour

Master thesis project by Sophie van Gent

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Full title: Finding Effective Messaging Strategies to Encourage Low-Carbon Behaviour

Abstract: Climate change is one of the biggest challenges that humanity is currently facing, and since current consumption patterns largely contribute to pollutant emissions, it is widely agreed upon that there needs to be a shift towards more low-carbon behaviour. Effective communication about climate change is a crucial element for building on a solution to mitigate its effects, and existing research shows that congruency between framing (gain versus loss) and construal level (concrete versus abstract) in a message leads to processing fluency, which in turn positively affects judgement and decision-making. The current study aims to explore whether these effects, referred to as the congruency effect, hold when a congruent message is shown to encourage low-carbon behaviour. It is hypothesised that low-carbon behaviour will be higher for receivers of a congruent message, and that this effect is mediated by processing. Additionally, the moderating role of environmental concern will be explored, since previously conducted research regarding the role of environmental concern on the congruency effect contradicts existing theory on information processing. It is hypothesised that environmental concern moderates the congruency effect on low-carbon behaviour. A 2×2 between-subjects design will be used to test these hypotheses, where 300 participants will be recruited via Amazon Mechanical Turk to fill out a survey containing one of four manipulations. Low-carbon behaviour will be measured using a recently developed tool for measuring this construct in a laboratory setting. The outcome of this study will contribute to existing theory in multiple ways. Firstly, the study will aim to replicate the congruency effect, that has been rarely studied in an environmental context. Secondly, there lies value in once again exploring the moderating role of environmental concern, considering the counterintuitive nature of previous results. Thirdly, this study extends previous research, by exploring the effects within the area of low-carbon behaviour. Adding to this, the current study will measure actual behaviour in a laboratory setting, which is a pioneering approach within the field of environmental psychology. Besides theory building, the outcome could benefit communication strategies in practice, by providing insight on how they can be most effective.

Degree program: Master of Science (Management, Economics, and Consumer Studies)

University: Wageningen University and Research

Supervisor: Daniel Fischer

2nd reader: Marijn Poortvliet

Completed in April 2022

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