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Feb 08, 2024 Article
"That's some positive energy": how social media users respond to #funny science content

by Michael A. Cacciatore, Sara K. Yeo, Leona Yi-Fan Su, Meaghan McKasy, Liane O'Neill and Sijia Qian

Many scientists make use of social media and take various approaches to humor in their posts to encourage online public engagement, yet little is known about how publics respond to particular types of online science humor. This study investigates the behavioral effects of the presence of different types of science humor, specifically anthropomorphism, wordplay, and the two combined, shared by a scientist on Twitter. Individuals who experienced higher levels of mirth after exposure to humorous science content were more likely to leave a comment on the social media post. Additionally, individuals' need for cognition moderated the relationship between humor exposure and mirth, as well as the relationship between mirth and leaving a comment. These results and future research are discussed.

Volume 23 • Issue 01 • 2024

Sep 07, 2020 Article
Operationalizing science literacy: an experimental analysis of measurement

by Meaghan McKasy, Michael Cacciatore, Leona Yi-Fan Su, Sara K. Yeo and Liane Oneill

Inequalities in scientific knowledge are the subject of increasing attention, so how factual science knowledge is measured, and any inconsistencies in said measurement, is extremely relevant to the field of science communication. Different operationalizations of factual science knowledge are used interchangeably in research, potentially resulting in artificially comparable knowledge levels among respondents. Here, we present data from an experiment embedded in an online survey conducted in the United States (N = 1,530) that examined the distribution of factual science knowledge responses on a 3- vs. 5-point response scale. Though the scale did not impact a summative knowledge index, significant differences emerged when knowledge items were analyzed individually or grouped based on whether the correct response was “true” or “false.” Our findings emphasize the necessity for communicators to consider the goals of knowledge assessment when making operationalization decisions.

Volume 19 • Issue 04 • 2020

Oct 12, 2017 Article
The influence of temperature on #ClimateChange and #GlobalWarming discourses on Twitter

by Sara K. Yeo, Zachary Handlos, Alexandra Karambelas, Leona Yi-Fan Su, Kathleen M. Rose, Dominique Brossard and Kyle Griffin

Research suggests non-experts associate different content with the terms “global warming” and “climate change.” We test this claim with Twitter content using supervised learning software to categorize tweets by topic and explore differences between content using “global warming” and “climate change” between 1 January 2012 and 31 March 2014. Twitter data were combined with temperature records to observe the extent to which temperature was associated with Twitter discussions. We then used two case studies to examine the relationship between extreme temperature events and Twitter content. Our findings underscore the importance of considering climate change communication on social media.

Volume 16 • Issue 05 • 2017

Aug 17, 2016 Article
Tweeting disaster: an analysis of online discourse about nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident

by Nan Li, Heather Akin, Leona Yi-Fan Su, Dominique Brossard, Michael A. Xenos and Dietram A. Scheufele

Of all the online information tools that the public relies on to collect information and share opinions about scientific and environmental issues, Twitter presents a unique venue to assess the spontaneous and genuine opinions of networked publics, including those about a focusing event like the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Using computational linguistic algorithms, this study analyzes a census of English-language tweets about nuclear power before, during, and after the Fukushima nuclear accident. Results show that although discourse about the event may have faded rapidly from the news cycle on traditional media, it evoked concerns about reactor safety and the environmental implications of nuclear power, particularly among users in U.S. states that are geographically closer to the accident site. Also, while the sentiment of the tweets was primarily pessimistic about nuclear power weeks after the accident, overall sentiment became increasingly neutral and uncertain over time. This study reveals there is a group of concerned citizens and stakeholders who are using online tools like Twitter to communicate about global and local environmental and health risks related to nuclear power. The implications for risk communication and public engagement strategies are discussed.

Volume 15 • Issue 05 • 2016