Climatic Change

, Volume 136, Issue 3–4, pp 463–476 | Cite as

Interpersonal communication about climate change: how messages change when communicated through simulated online social networks

  • Paul Connor
  • Emily Harris
  • Sophie Guy
  • Julian Fernando
  • Daniel B. Shank
  • Tim Kurz
  • Paul G. Bain
  • Yoshihisa Kashima


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.


Online Social Network Interpersonal Communication Content Domain Message Framing Climate Change Information 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research was supported by grants from the Australian Research Council to Y. Kashima (DP130102229), and to P. Bain (DP0984678). We would like to thank Elise Margetts and Mischel Luong for their assistance in coding, Paul Dudgeon for his advice on statistical methodology, Rijk Mercuur for his advice on environmental psychology literature, and our anonymous reviewers for their insights and suggestions.

Supplementary material

10584_2016_1643_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (251 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 251 kb)
10584_2016_1643_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (17 kb)
ESM 2 (XLSX 16 kb)
10584_2016_1643_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (49 kb)
ESM 3 (PDF 49 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Connor
    • 1
  • Emily Harris
    • 2
  • Sophie Guy
    • 3
  • Julian Fernando
    • 3
  • Daniel B. Shank
    • 3
  • Tim Kurz
    • 4
  • Paul G. Bain
    • 5
  • Yoshihisa Kashima
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of Personality and Social ResearchUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.School of PsychologyUniversity of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia
  3. 3.Melbourne School of Psychological SciencesUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia
  4. 4.Psychology, College of Life and Environmental SciencesUniversity of ExeterExeterUK
  5. 5.School of Psychology and Counselling and the Institute of Health and Biomedical InnovationQueensland University of Technology (QUT)BrisbaneAustralia

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