We generally assume that communication is more effective when the audience can make an emotional connection with the content. Two recent studies explore whether this assumption holds true for conveying scientific results through video, especially when the film makers intend to change people’s attitudes and behavior.
The first paper, published in the »Journal of Science Communication«, focuses on visual rhetoric and storytelling. The authors produced a simple »SciCommercial« about responsible whale watching using an »and, but, therefore« storyline. They deliberately concentrated on the emotional connection with viewers and chose not to be »heavy-handed with the science«. Still, they found that most participants» were prepared to accept the science findings that underpinned the video and alter their future whale watching intentions as a consequence.«
The authors point out, however, that a further investigation of whether the change of intention was followed by an actual change of behavior was beyond the scope of the study.
The second study, published in »Science Communication«, deals with the question whether video is a useful tool to communicate scientific consensus on climate change. The authors wanted to test »whether the scientific consensus communicated through experiential analogies in an engaging video is more persuasive than the same information conveyed in textual form«. They found that »conveying the ‘experience’ of scientific consensus using narrative and vivid imagery is effective«.
This result, however, is based on the comparison of reactions to a video with voice over text, and the identical transcript as text only. And as anybody who has ever written a text for video can tell you, these texts almost never work on their own. They are made to accompany video and correspond with image and sound. When presented alone, they therefore lack important information.
As encouraging the result of this second study may sound: It should be read with some caution.