An experiment with sharks and beach safety policy options

Published on 07. December 2017

Reducing fear to influence policy preferences: An experiment with sharks and beach safety policy options

Christopher L. Pepin-Neff, Thomas Wynter


This article reports on new research that finds certain messages reduce fear of sharks, key to promoting conservation-minded responses to shark bites. Here it is argued that the sophistication in public feelings toward these highly emotional events has allowed new actors to mobilize and given rise to the ‘Save the Sharks’ movement. In a unique experiment coupling randomly assigned intent-based priming messages with exposure to sharks in a ‘shark tunnel’, a potential path to reduce public fear of sharks and alter policy preferences is investigated. Priming for the absence of intent yielded significant fear extinction effects, providing a viable means of increasing support for non-lethal policy options following shark bite incidents. High levels of pride and low levels of blame for bite incidents are also found. In all, this article provides a step towards improving our understanding of fear and fear reduction in public policy.

Marine Policy, Volume 88, February 2018, Pages 222–229, DOI: 10.1016/j.marpol.2017.11.023



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