Trusted Sources as Mythbusters: Evaluating Climate Myth Debunking on Social Media by Trusted Climate Information Sources

Margaret Orr

Advisor: Edward Wile Maibach, PhD, Department of Communication

Committee Members: Christopher Clarke, Kevin Wright, John Cook

Online Location, https://gmu.zoom.us/j/93440416602?pwd=dUJGSGJIZDlVWXhmTmhDQ0RKZjhIZz09
June 12, 2024, 04:00 PM to 06:00 PM

Abstract:

Previous research has shown that climate scientists, broadcast meteorologists, and primary care providers are trusted sources for climate information. The present study investigates whether these trusted sources can serve as “mythbusters”, debunking misinformation as part of their climate change communication efforts; while also investigating the roles of source trust and alignment of a debunking topic with the source’s specific field of expertise. In a survey-based experiment, participants were   shown one of ten possible mock Facebook posts in a 3 (source) x 3 (message) design  plus a control condition. For example, there were three mock posts with a broadcast meteorologist as the source: one debunking a myth about weather and climate change, one debunking a myth about the scientific consensus, and one debunking a myth about climate change and health. Results indicate that there were no significant differences between  the conditions, and that source trust played a role in some of the conditions.  These results  reveal the need for further research into whether audiences are sensitive to  specific expertise when hearing about climate change from various sources, since climate change is a crisis that spans many disciplines. Results also reveal that trust in a source is important for debunking messages to be effective, so members of these and other trusted professions are encouraged to engage in climate communication and myth debunking.