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Impact of information (value oriented vs classic communication) in driving individual behaviours

Research project
Pågående forskning
Project owner
Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences

Short description

More than ever scientists should be more effective at communicating their work. When it comes to the responsibility of society for causing global changes, the science is strong. For example, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is now using the terminology ‘virtually certain’ when referring to the anthropogenic origin of some global environmental changes.

However, the scientific community is still struggling to deliver a strong message to citizens and policymakers. This limits the ability of politicians to deliver clear messages to their electorate and promote effective policies, and even worse enables others representing the interests of industry to express simplistic unfounded opinions.

A more efficient strategy would be to work across social, natural and communication sciences, a central theme within CeCAR. This will allow rising above the zone of complexity to consensus: i.e. from low direct societal values and high uncertainty typically associated with global environmental sciences and decision-making to information directly relating to societal values and high scientific certainty (Dupont et al. 2015).


A communication strategy using scientific information of high certainty and targeting societal values in the form of simple, but not simplistic, accessible messages will be more efficient in driving individual changes (Dupont et al. 2015).

Case study 1: Ocean acidification

Our recent work demonstrates that global environmental changes such as ocean acidification (an alteration of seawater chemistry due to human CO2 emissions) can negatively affect Bohuslän’s seafood quantity and quality within a few decades. The shrimps cultured in present conditions were preferred to the “future” shrimps (Dupont et al. 2014). Taste is one of the key factors influencing consumer behavior (Shyam 2012) and without global and local actions; these changes have the potential to impact the economy and the identity of the region.

The fact that ocean acidification can have a detectable impact on shrimp taste is a unique opportunity to efficiently communicate about global changes and their impact. In Scandinavian countries, the Pandalus shrimp is extremely popular and an integral part of local folklore and culture. It is then an ideal model to attract citizen’s interest (“Can you imagine Scandinavia without shrimp sandwich?”, “Can you taste climate change?”), initiate the discussion about future threats on their favorite seafood and to engage them on climate issues (for example through reduction of CO2 emissions) and the broader marine biodiversity crisis we may be facing.

We will follow a similar methodology as the one used in Dupont et al. 2014 to produce shrimps that can be used for a public tasting event. Briefly, shrimps will be sampled from central Gullmarsfjord using an otter trawl and transferred to The Sven Lovén Centre for Marine Sciences – Kristineberg. We will then take advantage of the excellent facilities to maintain the shrimps in different pH conditions mimicking ocean acidification scenarios (4 replicates per treatment): (i) pH 8.0, the present average pH and, (ii) pH 7.5, outside of the present range of pH variability and relevant scenario for near-future ocean acidification (Dorey et al. 2013).

We aim at organizing shrimp events (e.g. Havets Hus in Lysekil). We will compare different communication strategies: (i) classic scientific communication (hands-on, posters, leaflets), and (ii) the same but including a shrimp tasting (allowing participants to physically experience ocean acidification). Participants will be asked to take a pledge for the environment (simple actions such as reducing electricity waste or decrease meat consumptions) and will be followed for 6 months to see how the different communication strategies influence their behavior. The interest will be focused both on behavioral indicators reported but also on the extent to which they recall the experience of tasting shrimps from the waters with low pH and their reactions to it. We plan to use a questionnaire implemented on a tablet on the occasion of the visit to Havets hus, and then ask for permission to contact the visitors on a later occasion.

Researcher (länkas till nya katalogen)

Participants: Sam Dupont, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Gothenburg, Roger Säljö, Department of Education, Communication and Learning, University of Gothenburg, Leif Anderson, Department of Marine Sciences, University of Gothenburg and Sverker Jagers, Department of Political Science, University of Gothenburg. Open to other interested CeCAR scholars.