Effect of Geographical Distance and Fear-Based Visual Appeal in Environmental Communication
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
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Visual environmental communication is a relatively new field within the communication continuum. Visual communication has been highly studied, and environmental communication has been studied, but there has been little interdisciplinary research. Further, some of the persuasive visual environmental communication used in the mass media is fear-based, and there isn’t enough information available to determine when these specific fear-based appeals are effective. When used incorrectly, the result of fear-based visual communication is not only ineffective, it can be detrimental (Joffe, 2008). The success of persuasion through visual communication depends on several factors, one of which is the viewer’s personal connection to the subject. This study compares opposite ends of the persuasive emotive spectrum: fear-based visual environmental communication and reassuring visual environmental communication. A second experiment measures attitude when fear-based visual environmental communication is paired with differing amounts of geographical distance, as a measure of physical proximity/personal connection. Subjects are undergraduate students from varying disciplines and the experiment measures their attitude change when presented with fear-based environmental imagery. There is a distinct need to be able to explain exactly how to visually present information to change an audience’s attitude, identify which audience is reached with which types of visual communication, specify how to entice an audience to engage and choose to use this message, and outline how to create a lasting attitude change.