PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Inspiration, risk and the future
Using stories to help visualize climate change

Jean Fletcher  

Theme: Science communication for social inclusion and political engagement Abstract: People have trouble visualizing the future. The further away the future is, the harder it is for people to picture. However, being able to visualize the future is important for risk assessment and risk communication when one has to judge the consequences of an event that has not happened yet. The ability of people to envision the future may be especially important for problems like climate change, where large changes are not predicted to occur until at least 2050 but behaviours need to change now. While computer models and images have been used to help people visualize the future, little attention has focused on the use of stories for future visualization. For decades, science fiction has created vivid images of different futures in people's minds. Yet little research has focused on how this could be used in risk communication. Additionally, stories set in the future may help people imagine alternative ways of living. This could in turn lead to behaviour change. This paper will review the theoretical framework for using stories to help people visualize the future and the implications of this in terms of risk communication and inspiring behaviour change. Specifically it will consider whether short stories could be used to change people's perceptions of climate change risk and inspire engagement in pro-environmental actions.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.