Experiencing Climate Change Virtually: The Effects of Virtual Reality on Climate Change Related Cognitions, Emotions, and Behavior

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Abstract

We conducted a pre-registered, between-subjects experiment to investigate whether experiencing climate change consequences virtually can influence cognitions, emotions, and pro-environmental intentions and behaviors. Participants (N = 277) experienced a wildfire through different media that varied in their degree of technological immersiveness (virtual reality vs. regular video vs. magazine articles only). Participants in the virtual reality condition reported higher spatial presence, stronger emotional responses, stronger bodily responses, and reported that the experience felt more life-like. Increased spatial presence was associated with increased risk perceptions and negative emotions. Risk perceptions and negative emotions were subsequently associated with reduced intentions to consume dairy and meat, but not associated with actual plant-based food choices (vegan vs. non-vegan chocolate bar). Actual donations to ENGOs were only influenced by risk perceptions, not emotions. The role of psychological distance was explored, which led to different conclusions for quantitative (no effect of virtual reality) and qualitative measures (virtual reality can reduce psychological distance).

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APA

Meijers, M. H. C., Torfadóttir, R. “Heather,” Wonneberger, A., & Maslowska, E. (2023). Experiencing Climate Change Virtually: The Effects of Virtual Reality on Climate Change Related Cognitions, Emotions, and Behavior. Environmental Communication, 17(6), 581–601. https://doi.org/10.1080/17524032.2023.2229043

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