13 Mar 2024
 | 13 Mar 2024
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

The (non)effect of personalization in climate texts on credibility of climate scientists

Anna Leerink, Mark Bos, Daan Reijnders, and Erik van Sebille

Abstract. How we communicate about climate change affects how others think, feel and act. Therefore, the way climate scientists formulate messages is important. In this study, we assess the effect of personalization, operationalized as writing in a conversational style, as previously done by Ginns and Fraser (2010), and perceived credibility of climate scientists. We exposed hundred participants aged between 18 and 35 to three conditions of a text on the climate impact of train versus plane travel, with varying degree of personalization, and assessed the outcome in their attitude (specifically interest and opinion) towards sustainable travel, as well as the perceived credibility of the climate scientist who wrote the text. Results show that there is a small effect in the degree of happiness after reading the different texts, but little other effects. Our main conclusion is that, although personalization may be well received by readers, it may not be the best mode to influence the attitudes of readers towards sustainable travel, nor how readers come to perceive climate scientists' credibility.

Anna Leerink, Mark Bos, Daan Reijnders, and Erik van Sebille

Status: open (until 12 May 2024)

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Anna Leerink, Mark Bos, Daan Reijnders, and Erik van Sebille

Interactive computing environment

Python notebook with analysis and plotting code Erik van Sebille

Anna Leerink, Mark Bos, Daan Reijnders, and Erik van Sebille


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Short summary
Climate scientists who communicate to a broad audience may be reluctant to write in a more personal style, because they assume that it hurts their credibility. To test this assumption, we asked 100 Dutch people to rate the credibility of a climate scientist. We varied how the author of the article addressed the reader, and found that the degree of personalisation did not have a measurable impact on the credibility of the author. So we conclude that personalisation may not hurt credibility.