Date of Award

Summer 8-8-2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Cynthia Hoffner

Second Advisor

Amelia Arsenault

Third Advisor

Carrie Freeman

Fourth Advisor

Wing Yi Chan

Abstract

This research adds the growing body of literature on the role of celebrities as emergent spokespersons in climate advocacy and the process and consequences of its effects on public attitudes and behaviors to resolve the climate crisis. By applying social cognitive theory in conjunction with emotional appeals and language styles as message frames, the study examines the effects of role-modeling in adoption of eco-attitudes and behaviors. In a 2 x 2 design, the independent variables were emotion frame (fear, hope) and celebrity involvement frame (first person pronouns; FPP, non-first person pronouns; NFPP). For the manipulation check, the tweets were pilot tested. The main study was an experiment that asked participants to read tweets attributed to Leonardo DiCaprio or Pharrell Williams. Four main dependent variables were attitudes toward climate change mitigation and three behaviors, including support for government action, intention to engage in sustainable behavior, and intention to participate in activism for climate change mitigation. The role of two mediating variables (risk awareness, response efficacy) and one moderating variable, parasocial interaction (PSI) with the celebrity, were also examined. First, one-way ANCOVAs compared the effects of emotion frames to the control group. No evidence of the effects of emotion frame over unrelated messages on any dependent variables was found. Second, 2 (fear vs hope) x 2 (FPP vs NFPP) ANCOVAs found that fear-framed messages were more effective than hope-framed messages in driving intention for participation in activism, but emotion frame did not affect any other variables. The results also found that FPP frames led to more positive attitude (compared to NFPP frames), but had no effect on behaviors. Third, regression analyses found no evidence that risk awareness or response efficacy mediated the effect of emotion frames on attitudes or behaviors. In addition, the study discovered that PSI was a strong positive predictor of attitudes and all behaviors, but PSI did not moderate the impact of the celebrity involvement frame. The findings provide empirical evidence of the potential for celebrities to serve as role models in climate advocacy by psychologically involving people, which can be translated to the adoption of attitudes and behaviors.

Available for download on Wednesday, May 09, 2018

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