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Interpersonal communication about climate change: how messages change when communicated through simulated online social networks
Climate change communication research has mainly focused on how to communicate climate change effectively to the public. By contrast, how such information is then spread through interpersonal social networks has been neglected, despite being an essential component of cultural change. Using a Facebook-like format, we examined what types of climate change messages ‘survive’ when passed between individuals via communication network chains. We found that statements centred on conventional climate change topics (e.g., its impact on the natural world and human health) survived longer in communication chains than those with less conventional topics (e.g., its impact on societal competence, development, or communality). Moreover, statements about gains from mitigation (gain-frames) survived more than those about costs of non-mitigation (loss-frames) in initial communications, but loss-framed information survived more later in communication chains. In light of research showing that climate change messages focused on society and/or gain frames can motivate action, this research highlights a challenge by showing that these messages are less likely to be spread throughout society.