PERSUASIVE HOPE THEORY AND HOPE APPEALS IN MESSAGES ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION AND SEASONAL INFLUENZA PREVENTION

Open Access
Author:
Chadwick, Amy Elaine
Graduate Program:
Communication Arts and Sciences
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
May 21, 2010
Committee Members:
  • Roxanne Louise Parrott, Dissertation Advisor
  • Roxanne Louise Parrott, Committee Chair
  • Michael L Hecht, Committee Member
  • James Hogan, Committee Member
  • Brenton Yarnal, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • theory development
  • affect
  • hope
  • flu
  • seasonal influenza
  • global warming
  • climate change
  • message development
  • environmental communication
  • health communication
  • social influence
  • message design
  • persuasion
  • emotion
  • persuasive hope theory
  • focus groups
  • online survey
  • college students
Abstract:
Climate change is an important challenge that has numerous implications for our health and well-being. Communicators have many significant roles to play in addressing this challenge. One role is to use persuasive communication to change or reinforce the public’s attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors to support climate protection. Messages designed to evoke hope have the potential to be an effective strategy for influencing behavior and behavioral antecedents related to climate protection. A review of extant literature indicated that no theories existed to elucidate the role of hope in persuasion or to guide the development of hope appeals. Therefore, I developed persuasive hope theory (PHT) based on appraisal theory, a discrete model of emotions, and message design theories. PHT defines hope as a discrete emotion that involves appraisals of a future or unknown event as important, goal congruent, consistent with a better future, and possible. The theory also advances a framework of hope appeals as messages that induce hope by presenting an opportunity and that identifies ways to take advantage of the opportunity. I conducted qualitative and quantitative formative research to guide the development of hope appeal messages based on PHT. The messages focused on climate protection and, for comparison, seasonal influenza prevention. I used these messages to test PHT via two quasi-experimental studies. These studies examined relationships between subjective feelings of hope and appraisals, explored relationships between subjective feelings of hope and behavioral antecedents, assessed the effects of hope appeals, and identified individual characteristics that affect the above relationships and effects. The behavioral antecedents included self-efficacy, response efficacy, attitudes toward the recommended behaviors, and behavior intentions. The individual characteristics included perceived susceptibility, perceived severity, subjective knowledge, and environmental identity. The findings from the empirical studies predominantly support the relationships predicted by persuasive hope theory. Most significantly, the findings indicate that communicators can design messages that create hope and that increase appraisals of importance, goal congruence, future expectation, and possibility. These appraisals and feelings of hope both have implications for antecedents to behavior. Thus, this research offers several theoretical as well as practical implications for communication and persuasion scholarship and practice.