Communication for [ Public health risks ]
Animal agriculture is a significant contributor to climate change¹, pandemic risk² and antimicrobial resistance³. In a collaborative study with the Good Food Institute, we found that messages which clearly communicated these broad societal risks increased people’s willingness to try plant-based meat, and did so to a greater extent than messages communicating its personal-health benefits. This finding defies prior expectations from the industry that personal-health arguments are the key to driving purchase intentions, based on standard consumer survey data⁴.
Relative impact of 57 messages on attitudes towards plant-based meat. While personal-health messages (red) most affected people’s beliefs about the healthiness of plant-based meat, messages about climate and public-health benefits (green) produced the greatest interest in trying it. Results are from an RCT experiment spanning N=34,000 US adults, and are estimated using a hierarchical Bayesian model that adjusts for within-subject correlation between attitudes.
Impact of various messaging strategies on a range of issue-specific attitudes towards the government. Error bars show 50% and 95% confidence intervals. Results are from a series of eight RCT experiments, each spanning approximately N=4000 UK adults and a total of 200 crowdsourced messages. When estimating the impact of the best message we use cross-validation to avoid winner’s curse bias.
Communication for [ Political campaigning ]
In collaboration with CampaignLab we conducted an eight-week study to develop arguments that would hold the UK government to account for its record on COVID-19, the environment, rising living costs, and a range of other issues. Each week, 30 members of the public competed with one another to write the most convincing argument about a particular issue, and their submissions were tested in online RCTs with thousands of voters. The results were stark: the winning crowdsourced messages were more than twice as convincing as “benchmark” messaging from the opposition (the Labour Party) pulled from the news and social media.
Communication for [ Animal welfare ]
In a study conducted for Animal Think Tank, we conducted multiple rounds of iterative testing to identify the arguments that produce the greatest support for animal welfare. The most impactful message discovered appealed to animal intelligence: “[…] Crows can solve complex problems, dolphins work together to hunt, and bees can count. Studies have shown that pigs are just as intelligent as dogs. Many animals even have intellectual capabilities that humans do not possess. For example, bats and dolphins can use sonar, and many animals can sense sights and sounds that humans can't […]”
Comparison of messaging strategies tested in the final round of experimentation conducted for Animal Think Tank. Grey bars show 95% credible interval for a combined index of animal welfare attitudes; yellow bars show the Bayesian posterior distribution for the individual message which is most effective. Across experiments, the study compared 32 messages on a sample of N=11,600 UK adults.
¹ Fully 20 percent of direct emissions are attributable to animal agriculture. See: https://gfi.org/initiatives/climate/ ² According to the United Nations Environment Programme, three of the seven trends driving the increasing emergence of zoonotic diseases are increased demand for animal protein; a rise in intense and unsustainable farming; and the climate crisis. See https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/press-release/unite-human-animal-and-environmental-health-prevent-next-pandemic-un ³ According to the World Health Organization, the overuse of antibiotics (leading to AMR) is one of the greatest threats to global health, development and food security. Antibiotic use in livestock is likely to account for approximately 70–80 percent of total consumption. See: https://ourworldindata.org/antibiotic-resistance-from-livestock ⁴ See: https://farmanimalwelfare.substack.com/p/what-happened-to-plant-based-meat