Title page for ETD etd-04072015-123410

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Altinay, Zeynep Melis
Author's Email Address zaltinay@lsu.edu
URN etd-04072015-123410
Title Communicating Sustainability with Visuals: Issue Perception and Issue Engagement
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Mass Communication
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Reynolds, Amy Committee Chair
Reams, Margaret Committee Member
Sanders, Meghan Committee Member
Sluyter, Andrew Dean's Representative
  • media psychology
  • issue engagement
  • public perception
  • visual persuasion
  • visual communication
  • Environmental communication
  • public understanding of science
Date of Defense 2015-03-30
Availability unrestricted
Today the list of environmental disasters threatening lives and natural resources has expanded to include many causes. Even though sustainable solutions have never been so urgent, public still issues low priority to many of these serious threats. Many impacts of environmental deprivation, such as coastal land loss, are invisible to the untrained eye, causing individuals to distance themselves psychologically from the risks. The slow pace of environmental degradation constitutes one of the biggest challenges in sustainability communication. The success of sustainable development will require the public to undergo a significant shift in thinking about environmental issues. This dissertation systemically investigates the influence of visual imagery on how people perceive environmental change. It explores visuals’ ability to influence issue urgency, issue importance, issue engagement, and issue salience. The relationship between these variables is investigated in a sequential and mixed-method format that involves content analysis and focus group discussions

Results, which were interpreted in the context of the Visual Perception Model, suggested that affect and cognition influences one another to shape environmental perceptions. Particularly, images that incorporate hypothetical future scenarios are more likely to convey the urgency and importance of an issue. While images with an added affective component (positive and negative cues) make messages more engaging, they can also reduce motivation to take action. Willingness to support environmental solutions appears to be a result of public’s ability to visualize short-term goals and successes.

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