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Sociology & Anthropology Senior Research Symposium 2022

Poster Session

Austin Halstead

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How does social media and disinformation contribute to climate literacy and/or climate change education?

I conducted a small experiment to test the climate literacy of the population that I am studying. To start I gathered a group of 30 individuals, preferably not people I knew. I put together a campus wide email indicating that I need Wheaton students to help participate in my experiment. I next randomly assigned the participants into groups of even numbers. Each group had a total of 15 minutes to go through a fake instagram feed (on my personal iPhone) that I had created for the experiment. Before viewing the feeds, I did not provide any context into what is going on in the experiment besides giving them my personal iPhone, and telling them to scroll through the feed as if they were on their own phones. One group was the control and only viewed their own instagram feeds. The second group was viewing facts and figures that are associated with climate science which are true and proven by various official websites and accounts. Finally the third group was viewing disinformation posts and news articles regarding climate science. All groups were allowed to interact with the posts at their leisure and the only limitation is to abide by the 15 minute time frame. After the experiment each individual was tested using a survey I have created to determine the climate literacy of each participant. This survey has no time limit and tests climate literacy to my satisfaction. After the survey, every group was briefed on the purpose of the experiment and provided with answers to their questions if needed.