Environmental Literature as Persuasion: An Experimental Test of the Effects of Reading Climate Fiction

Schneider-Mayerson, Matthew; Gustafson, Abel; Leiserowitz, Anthony; Goldberg, Matthew H.; Rosenthal, Seth A.; Ballew, Matthew
Environmental Communication

Literary works of fiction about climate change are becoming more common and more popular among critics and readers. While much research has indicated the persuasive effectiveness of narrative storytelling in general, empirical research has not yet tested the effects of reading climate fiction. This paper reports results from the first experimental study to test the immediate and delayed impacts of climate fiction on readers’ beliefs and attitudes about climate change. We found that reading climate fiction had small but significant positive effects on several important beliefs and attitudes about global warming – observed immediately after participants read the stories. However, these effects diminished to statistical nonsignificance after a one-month interval. In this paper, we review the relevant literature, present the design and results of this experiment, and discuss implications for future research and practice.