Visualizing Change’s researchers observed multiple live interpretations of this script in aquarium settings.
Observers found that the narrative was well-received by visitors, and in follow-up focus groups, it was clear that the two featured Explanatory Metaphors – Climate’s Heart and Heat-Trapping Blanket – stood out to people and helped them understand the mechanisms at work. Here are a few excerpts from group discussions that took place after visitors experienced the narratives:
Visitor: “I would say, the temperature of the ocean is the pump that creates the circulatory system. You change the way the pump works, you’re going to change the way the circulation works.”
Visitor: “How everything is connected to everything. Like, waterways, gulf stream patterns, it’s neat to see. You figure, your heart’s like the globe, and you have your arteries and things …”
Visitor: “You said something that was really interesting that I never thought of. As a person I kind of say, ‘climate change, I can’t do anything.’ But when you equated it to the heart, like, we can do exercise, and— and maybe there is something that we can do.”
Researchers noticed two important frame effects in these quotes and others like them. First, Climate’s Heart allowed people to think about how the climate system and the ocean are connected. This is noteworthy because earlier studies revealed that this conceptual knowledge is simply missing for most Americans. Second, people also drew on this metaphor in productive ways to think about solutions. Visitors spontaneously drew on knowledge they have about heart-healthy behaviors to consider the possibility that early, proactive steps could help to protect the ocean. This is also a significant piece of learning, as previous research has shown that people tend to assume the ocean is too big to be harmed, can heal itself, or that the only available response is to “clean it up.” This narrative also prompted the public to think more expansively about the role of collective, civic responses to climate change. While before the presentation they were likely to cite solutions such as “unplug your cellphone charger” and “recycle,” after the presentation they offered solutions in the form of alternative energy sources and governmental regulation. Overall, in testing, this narrative shifted public thinking in productive ways.