IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Stories vs. facts: triggering emotion and action-taking on climate change


  • Brandi S. Morris

    () (Aarhus University)

  • Polymeros Chrysochou

    (Aarhus University
    University of South Australia)

  • Jacob Dalgaard Christensen

    (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences)

  • Jacob L. Orquin

    (Aarhus University
    Reykjavik University)

  • Jorge Barraza

    (University of Southern California)

  • Paul J. Zak

    (Claremont Graduate University)

  • Panagiotis Mitkidis

    (Aarhus University
    Duke University)


Climate change is an issue which elicits low engagement, even among concerned segments of the public. While research suggests that the presentation of factual information (e.g., scientific consensus) can be persuasive to some audiences, there is also empirical evidence indicating that it may also increase resistance in others. In this research, we investigate whether climate change narratives structured as stories are better than informational narratives at promoting pro-environmental behavior in diverse audiences. We propose that narratives structured as stories facilitate experiential processing, heightening affective engagement and emotional arousal, which serve as an impetus for action-taking. Across three studies, we manipulate the structure of climate change communications to investigate how this influences narrative transportation, measures of autonomic reactivity indicative of emotional arousal, and pro-environmental behavior. We find that stories are more effective than informational narratives at promoting pro-environmental behavior (studies 1 and 3) and self-reported narrative transportation (study 2), particularly those with negatively valenced endings (study 3). The results of study 3 indicate that embedding information in story structure influences cardiac activity, and subsequently, pro-environmental behavior. These findings connect works from the fields of psychology, neuroscience, narratology, and climate change communication, advancing our understanding of how narrative structure influences engagement with climate change through emotional arousal, which likely incites pro-environmental behavior as the brain’s way of optimizing bodily budgets.

Suggested Citation

  • Brandi S. Morris & Polymeros Chrysochou & Jacob Dalgaard Christensen & Jacob L. Orquin & Jorge Barraza & Paul J. Zak & Panagiotis Mitkidis, 2019. "Stories vs. facts: triggering emotion and action-taking on climate change," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 154(1), pages 19-36, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:climat:v:154:y:2019:i:1:d:10.1007_s10584-019-02425-6
    DOI: 10.1007/s10584-019-02425-6

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: Abstract
    Download Restriction: Access to the full text of the articles in this series is restricted.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Neil Stewart & Christoph Ungemach & Adam J. L. Harris & Daniel M. Bartels & Ben R. Newell & Gabriele Paolacci & Jesse Chandler, "undated". "The Average Laboratory Samples a Population of 7,300 Amazon Mechanical Turk Workers," Mathematica Policy Research Reports f97b669c7b3e4c2ab95c9f805, Mathematica Policy Research.
    2. Dan M. Kahan, 2017. "‘Ordinary science intelligence’: a science-comprehension measure for study of risk and science communication, with notes on evolution and climate change," Journal of Risk Research, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 20(8), pages 995-1016, August.
    3. Bates, Douglas & Mächler, Martin & Bolker, Ben & Walker, Steve, 2015. "Fitting Linear Mixed-Effects Models Using lme4," Journal of Statistical Software, Foundation for Open Access Statistics, vol. 67(i01).
    4. Robert J. Fisher & Mark Vandenbosch & Kersi D. Antia, 2008. "An Empathy-Helping Perspective on Consumers' Responses to Fund-Raising Appeals," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 35(3), pages 519-531, February.
    5. Neil Stewart & Christoph Ungemach & Adam J. L. Harris & Daniel M. Bartels & Ben R. Newell & Gabriele Paolacci & Jesse Chandler, 2015. "The average laboratory samples a population of 7,300 Amazon Mechanical Turk workers," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 10(5), pages 479-491, September.
    6. Tom van Laer & Ko de Ruyter & Luca M. Visconti & Martin Wetzels, 2014. "The Extended Transportation-Imagery Model: A Meta-Analysis of the Antecedents and Consequences of Consumers' Narrative Transportation," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 40(5), pages 797-817.
    7. Paul Slovic, 1999. "Trust, Emotion, Sex, Politics, and Science: Surveying the Risk‐Assessment Battlefield," Risk Analysis, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 19(4), pages 689-701, August.
    8. Stephan Dickert & Paul Slovic, 2009. "Attentional mechanisms in the generation of sympathy," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 4(4), pages 297-306, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Kimberly Bryan & Sarah Ward & Liz Roberts & Mathew P. White & Owen Landeg & Tim Taylor & Lindsey McEwen, 2020. "The health and well-being effects of drought: assessing multi-stakeholder perspectives through narratives from the UK," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 163(4), pages 2073-2095, December.
    2. Heidi Hendersson & Christine Wamsler, 2020. "New stories for a more conscious, sustainable society: claiming authorship of the climate story," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 158(3), pages 345-359, February.
    3. Candice Howarth & Laurie Parsons, 2021. "Assembling a coalition of climate change narratives on UK climate action: a focus on the city, countryside, community and home," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 164(1), pages 1-19, January.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Cloos, Janis & Greiff, Matthias & Rusch, Hannes, 2020. "Geographical Concentration and Editorial Favoritism within the Field of Laboratory Experimental Economics (RM/19/029-revised-)," Research Memorandum 014, Maastricht University, Graduate School of Business and Economics (GSBE).
    2. Keela S. Thomson & Daniel M. Oppenheimer, 2016. "Investigating an alternate form of the cognitive reflection test," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 11(1), pages 99-113, January.
    3. Capraro, Valerio & Schulz, Jonathan & Rand, David G., 2019. "Time pressure and honesty in a deception game," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 79(C), pages 93-99.
    4. Jonathan Robinson & Cheskie Rosenzweig & Aaron J Moss & Leib Litman, 2019. "Tapped out or barely tapped? Recommendations for how to harness the vast and largely unused potential of the Mechanical Turk participant pool," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 14(12), pages 1-29, December.
    5. Antonio A. Arechar & Simon Gächter & Lucas Molleman, 2018. "Conducting interactive experiments online," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 21(1), pages 99-131, March.
    6. Cl'ement Le Ludec & Paola Tubaro & Antonio A. Casilli, 2019. "How many people microwork in France? Estimating the size of a new labor force," Papers 1901.03889,
    7. David Ronayne & Daniel Sgroi, 2018. "On the motivations for the dual-use of electronic and traditional cigarettes," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 25(12), pages 830-834, July.
    8. Stevenson, Regan M. & Josefy, Matthew, 2019. "Knocking at the gate: The path to publication for entrepreneurship experiments through the lens of gatekeeping theory," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 242-260.
    9. Christ, Margaret H. & Vance, Thomas W., 2018. "Cascading controls: The effects of managers’ incentives on subordinate effort to help or harm," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 65(C), pages 20-32.
    10. Anthony M. Evans & Joachim I. Krueger, 2017. "Ambiguity and expectation-neglect in dilemmas of interpersonal trust," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 12(6), pages 584-595, November.
    11. Clément Le Ludec & Paola Tubaro & Antonio Casilli, 2019. "Combien de personnes micro-travaillent en France ? Estimer l'ampleur d'une nouvelle forme de travail," Working Papers hal-02021525, HAL.
    12. Roxanne E. Lewis & Michael G. Tyshenko, 2009. "The Impact of Social Amplification and Attenuation of Risk and the Public Reaction to Mad Cow Disease in Canada," Risk Analysis, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 29(5), pages 714-728, May.
    13. JANSSENS, Jochen & DE CORTE, Annelies & SÖRENSEN, Kenneth, 2016. "Water distribution network design optimisation with respect to reliability," Working Papers 2016007, University of Antwerp, Faculty of Business and Economics.
    14. Silva Larson & Anne (Giger)-Dray & Tina Cornioley & Manithaythip Thephavanh & Phomma Thammavong & Sisavan Vorlasan & John G. Connell & Magnus Moglia & Peter Case & Kim S. Alexander & Pascal Perez, 2020. "A Game-Based Approach to Exploring Gender Differences in Smallholder Decisions to Change Farming Practices: White Rice Production in Laos," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 12(16), pages 1-22, August.
    15. Logan S. Casey & Jesse Chandler & Adam Seth Levine & Andrew Proctor & Dara Z. Strolovitch, 2017. "Intertemporal Differences Among MTurk Workers: Time-Based Sample Variations and Implications for Online Data Collection," SAGE Open, , vol. 7(2), pages 21582440177, June.
    16. F J Heather & D Z Childs & A M Darnaude & J L Blanchard, 2018. "Using an integral projection model to assess the effect of temperature on the growth of gilthead seabream Sparus aurata," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 13(5), pages 1-19, May.
    17. Aigul Mavletova & James Witte, 2017. "Is the willingness to take risks contagious? A comparison of immigrants and native-born in the United States," Journal of Risk Research, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 20(7), pages 827-845, July.
    18. Morán-Ordóñez, Alejandra & Ameztegui, Aitor & De Cáceres, Miquel & de-Miguel, Sergio & Lefèvre, François & Brotons, Lluís & Coll, Lluís, 2020. "Future trade-offs and synergies among ecosystem services in Mediterranean forests under global change scenarios," Ecosystem Services, Elsevier, vol. 45(C).
    19. Pérez-Neira, David & Schneider, Monika & Armengot, Laura, 2020. "Crop-diversification and organic management increase the energy efficiency of cacao plantations," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 177(C).
    20. Ana Pinto & Tong Yin & Marion Reichenbach & Raghavendra Bhatta & Pradeep Kumar Malik & Eva Schlecht & Sven König, 2020. "Enteric Methane Emissions of Dairy Cattle Considering Breed Composition, Pasture Management, Housing Conditions and Feeding Characteristics along a Rural-Urban Gradient in a Rising Megacity," Agriculture, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(12), pages 1-18, December.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:spr:climat:v:154:y:2019:i:1:d:10.1007_s10584-019-02425-6. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sonal Shukla) or (Springer Nature Abstracting and Indexing). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.