Elsevier, Telematics and Informatics, Volume 46, March 2020
Persuading individuals to engage in pro-environmental behavior is challenging. Interactive media, such as virtual environments and video games, present opportunities to minimize psychological distance and bolster perceived risks associated with environmental threats. In this experiment, we tested the effects of a serious game that allowed users to engage in environmental cleanup. In the virtual environment, participants (N = 190) navigated down a polluted river that was described as geographically and temporally close or distant. The affordance of interactivity, specifically contingency, was also manipulated. Results revealed that feeling psychologically close to the environment led to greater risk perception, which in turn led to more environmental behavior and greater support for environmental policy in the days following the experiment. In terms of interactivity, higher perceptions of contingency led to greater self-efficacy, which also led to more environmental behavior and greater support for environmental policy after the experiment. We discuss implications for environmental communication, science communication, and other prosocial persuasion efforts using interactive media such as serious games and virtual reality.