Waterlines: Confluence and Hope through Environmental Communication. The 15th biennial Conference on Communication and Environment (COCE). June 17-21, 2019, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

The Quantified Analogy: Vicarious Narrative in Message Design

Kevin Ells's picture
Ells, Kevin
Huang, Jialing
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Scholarly papers

Participants completed one of two versions of a survey measuring their concern about coastal erosion in Louisiana. The surveys varied only in the message design of a summary paragraph of information regarding coastal erosion. Survey 1 contained a message culled from a state government press release, while Survey 2 recast this message as a descriptive vicarious narrative arithmetically identical to the first message. Results slightly supported a hypothesis that respondents to the second survey would report a higher level of concern as indicated by reported intention to seek further information on the issue. Subsequent informal studies in undergraduate research methods replicated the results and indicated directions for further research. A recent pilot study extended the study to Texan residents exposed to messages pertaining to the Gulf coast as whole. Results were the inverse of the initial study, indicating vicarious quantified message style useful addition to rhetorical strategy list, as well as need to further research. Implications for environmental and risk communication are discussed.