Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Meet Bob and Offset Your Flight: Optimising Explainer Videos to Promote Voluntary Carbon Offsetting

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Abstract:  In Germany, over 60% of people use YouTube as a search engine and watch explainer videos or tutorials at least occasionally. Two studies were conducted to determine how explainer videos can be optimised to promote sustainable minority behaviour such as voluntary carbon offsetting. A typical way to present information in explainer videos is by using exemplars (the “meet Bob” trope), which can change recipients’ judgements of the frequency of events. When an exemplar is included, the frequency of occurrence can be estimated to be higher, even if the actual base-rate information is given. Therefore, study one (N = 482) tested whether an exemplar could enhance the positive effects of a dynamic descriptive social norm appeal (DSNA), prevent the backfire effects of a static minority DSNA, and examine whether there were any differences depending on the narrative perspective. In study one, we conducted a 2 (narrative perspective: first vs. third person) × 2 (DSNA: static vs. dynamic) × 2 (travel destination: Europe vs. overseas; control factor) between-subjects experiment using six self-produced explainer videos about voluntary carbon offsetting (N = 270). The results show that the narrative perspective, different DSNAs, and the destination had no effect on persuasive outcomes. Study two (N = 270) focused on social norm appeals and supplemented minority DSNAs (DSNA: static vs. dynamic vs. absent) with an injunctive social norm appeal (ISNA: present vs. absent). The results show that a majority injunctive social norm appeal can improve attitudes towards voluntary carbon offsetting and perceived effectiveness.

Keywords:  exemplar; experiment; explainer video; narrative perspective; nudging; social influence; social norm appeals; sustainable behaviour; voluntary carbon offsetting


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© Anna Schorn, Werner Wirth. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.