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Perception vs. Reality for Chimpanzees

 
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Chimpanzees are an endangered species, but does seeing them in commercials, ads and other media portrayals make people think they don't need protection? A recent study looked at how public perceptions are influenced by media images.

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Study Summary

This study, conducted by a research team affiliated with the Lincoln Park Zoo and the University of Chicago, investigated the effects that media portrayals of chimpanzees have on the public's understanding of the species. The study relied on digital images portraying chimpanzees in different ways (with and without clothing, with or without humans present, in natural and unnatural settings), and then surveyed respondents' beliefs and attitudes after viewing the images.

Based on the survey replies, the authors concluded that "the results of this study have identified a significant influence of an overlooked aspect of popular culture and suggest that important conservation efforts might be hampered by practices previously thought to be harmless. Specifically, these data provide empirical support for scientific and conservation organizations that have called for the end of chimpanzees in the entertainment industry.

Policy Implications

Advocates have argued against the use of animals in entertainment and media for decades. This is evidence of the damaging impact that media can have on conservation efforts regarding chimpanzees in particular, but similar adverse effects may also apply to other vulnerable species.


Derived from: Ross, S.R., Vreeman VM, Lonsdorf EV, 2011. Specific Image Characteristics Influence Attitudes about Chimpanzee Conservation and Use as Pets. PLoS ONE 6(7): e22050. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022050

See the original post on the Animals and Society Institute (ASI) website. ASI is an organization dedicated to policy-oriented research and human-animal studies. HRC and ASI already collaborate on multiple projects and we will work together to identify important studies for future research nutshells.

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