When Artificial Intelligence Voices Human Concerns: The Paradoxical Effects of AI Voice on Climate Risk Perception and Pro-Environmental Behavioral Intention

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2023 Feb 20;20(4):3772. doi: 10.3390/ijerph20043772.


Artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled text-to-speech transformation has been widely employed to deliver online information in various fields. However, few studies have investigated the effect of the AI voice in environmental risk communication, especially in the field of climate change, an issue that poses a severe threat to global public health. To address this gap, the current study examines how the AI voice impacts the persuasive outcome of climate-related information and the potential mechanism that underlies this process. Based on the social and affect heuristics of voice, we propose a serial mediation model to test the effect of climate-related information delivered by different voice types (AI voice vs. human voice) in eliciting risk perception and motivating pro-environmental behavioral intention. Through an online auditory experiment (N = 397), we found the following. First, the AI voice was as effective as the human voice in eliciting risk perception and motivating pro-environmental behavioral intention. Second, compared with human voice, the AI voice yielded a listener's lower level of perceived identity oneness with the speaker, which decreased risk perception and subsequently inhibited pro-environmental behavioral intention. Third, compared with human voice, the AI voice produced a higher level of auditory fear, which increased risk perception and thereby led to stronger pro-environmental behavioral intention. The paradoxical role of the AI voice and its wise use in environmental risk communication for promoting global public health are discussed.

Keywords: AI voice; auditory fear; perceived identity oneness; pro-environmental behavioral intention; risk perception.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Speech
  • Speech Perception*
  • Voice*

Grants and funding

This research was supported by the National Social Science Foundation of China (19CXW029).