October 18, 2009
A new study appearing in Communication Research shows that watching television has no significant impact on the viewer's knowledge about climate change. Comparing television to other media sources, the study found that newspapers and the Internet was a far more important factor in one's knowledge related to global warming.
"Unlike many other social issues with which the public may have first-hand experience, global warming is an issue that many come to learn about through the media," says author and Communication Professor Xiaoquan Zhao with George Mason University. "The primary source of mediated information about global warming is the news."
The study questioned participants as to how often they watched TV, surfed the Internet, and read the newspaper, and then asked about their concern and knowledge regarding climate change, most specifically the impact of warming on polar regions.
Those who spent time on the Internet and reading newspapers proved more concerned about climate change and considered themselves more knowledgeable about the subject than TV coach potatoes. Concern about climate change seemed also appeared to lead individuals to seek out a variety of media sources on climate change and even nonmedia sources such as movies. "Some media forms have clear influence on people's perceived knowledge of global warming, and most of it seems positive," says Zhao. "Future research should focus on how to harness this powerful educational function."
CITATION: Zhao, X. Media use and global warming perceptions: A snapshot of the reinforcing spirals. Communication Research, 36(5), 698-723. 2009.
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