Communicating climate change through documentary film: imagery, emotion, and efficacy

Ashley Bieniek-Tobasco, Sabrina McCormick, Rajiv N. Rimal, Cherise B. Harrington, Madelyn Shafer, Hina Shaikh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


We used qualitative in-depth interviews to evaluate the effects of a mass media climate change program on audiences’ efficacy beliefs, outcome expectations, emotional responses, and motivations and intentions to address climate change. We conducted in-depth interviews with 73 participants from five US cities and three political parties who had watched episodes of the documentary television series, Season Two of Years of Living Dangerously. Eligible participants completed an in-depth interview within 24 h of viewing a select episode. Data were transcribed and then coded and analyzed using QSR NVivo 10. Weak efficacy beliefs limited intentions to enact concrete behavioral change. Outcome expectations, national-level actions, imagery, and emotional responses to stories played an important role in these processes. Explicit information about expected outcomes of various actions, and specifically successes, should be provided in order to boost efficacy and incentivize behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalClimatic Change
StateAccepted/In press - 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Atmospheric Science


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