Effects of emotionality versus factuality on climate change messages’ persuasiveness in bilinguals.

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Due to globalization, mass communication and political discourse worldwide are increasingly disseminated in English. Accordingly, social advertising, including climate change communication, must consider how bilinguals process messages to maximize persuasive outcomes. The complexity of climate change may demand communicative efforts to incorporate heuristic cues, such as emotionality, to ease message persuasiveness. Past research indicates a persuasive power of emotion in social advertising, but studies suggest differing emotionality perceptions in audiences’ first and second language. The purpose of the current research was to examine emotionality perceptions of first and second language in Dutch-English bilinguals, and to investigate effects of emotionality and factuality in message design in an audience’s first and second language on the persuasiveness of climate change communication. In an online experiment, 140 participants indicated their attitude towards climate change and behavioral intentions to act sustainably after being presented one of four persuasive messages, namely an emotional or factual message in either their first language (Dutch) or second language (English). Results indicate that emotionality perceptions did not differ between Dutch and English. However, the higher the English proficiency of the sample, the more emotional the English emotional messages were perceived. Additionally, there were no persuasive differences between the four messages. This suggests that language and emotionality manipulations may not impact persuasiveness of climate change communication towards Dutch-English bilinguals.
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