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A construal-level perspective of climate change images in US newspapers

Abstract

This study presents an initial exploration of newspapers’ visual representations of climate change using a construal-level perspective. We measured the level of abstraction of 635 news images from widely circulated US newspapers using a novel and replicable coding scheme which we derived from existing construal level literature and communication research. The results show, contrary to expectations, that climate change has been visually portrayed as a relatively concrete rather than abstract issue and has been mostly portrayed with a high level of specificity. In particular, USA Today visually covered the issue as most concrete, followed by the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Human-themed images were the most concrete images as compared to nature-themed and industry-themed images. Findings regarding the level of abstraction of news images, though not necessarily representing audiences’ perceptions, clearly indicate that construal level aspects in the news images provide another novel way of understanding and interpreting climate change imagery in the US media.

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Notes

  1. http://www.usatoday.com/topic/5e28ddaf-145d-4eb7-9f85-abda05e32ffc/climate-change/

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Kevin Duffy (University of Maine) and Jack Nissen (Michigan State) for their coding assistance.

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Correspondence to Ran Duan.

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Duan, R., Zwickle, A. & Takahashi, B. A construal-level perspective of climate change images in US newspapers. Climatic Change 142, 345–360 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-017-1945-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-017-1945-9

Keywords

  • Climate Change
  • Wall Street Journal
  • Newspaper Image
  • Abstraction Level
  • Psychological Distance