Visualizing Climate Change: An Experiment About Animation and News Perceptions

Stephanie Jean Tsang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paperpeer-review


Data visualizations are widely demonstrated to impact recipients’ perceptions and attitudes. While texts and static data visualizations are studied extensively by communication scholars, less is known about the effects of animated visualizations. Focusing on maps, a common technique to convey climate change information, this study tests how the type (static vs. animated) and repeated exposure (one vs. two) of visualizations impact bias perceptions with an online experiment (N = 423). Participants in the study were presented with a pro-climate change regulations news article, and those who read the version with animated visualizations perceived the story to be more biased than those who were presented with static images. Among the four journalistic motives commonly attributed to journalists and media outlets responsible for a news story (defending power, keeping watch, mobilization, and advocacy), the findings suggest that the perceived advocacy motive mediates the triggering of an animated map visualization to arouse higher levels of perceived media bias in favor of climate regulations. The implications for democratic ideals and political polarization are discussed.


Conference73rd Annual International Communication Association Conference, ICA 2023
Abbreviated titleICA 2023
Internet address

User-Defined Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Environmental Communication, News
  • Environmental Communication


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