The influence of YouTube videos on human tolerance of sharks

Published on
21 July 2022

The influence of YouTube videos on human tolerance of sharks

J. M. Beall, L. D. Pharr, R. von Furstenberg, A. Barber, W. R. Casola, A. Vaughn, M. N. Peterson, L. R. Larson


Sharks are often depicted in the media as violent killers that actively seek out opportunities to harm humans. This framing may impact human tolerance and support of shark conservation, underscoring the need to identify strategies that counteract these negative representations. Social media, given its widespread use, could be an effective platform for shaping public tolerance for sharks and other wildlife species. In this experimental study, we conducted an online pre-post survey in Spring 2020 to determine how viewing shark-related YouTube videos impacted tolerance for sharks among residents (n = 335) in the coastal state of North Carolina (NC), USA and neighboring states. The study employed framing theory, which suggests that the ways in which information is presented influence how it is processed and the actions that result from it. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two video treatments where sharks were framed positively or negatively. Each video treatment impacted tolerance for sharks in the direction of their framing: positive framing influenced positive changes in tolerance (70% more positive attitudes toward sharks, a 130% increase in acceptance of sharks and a 46% increase in intended shark conservation behaviors), and negative framing influenced negative changes (25% more negative attitudes toward sharks, a 18% decrease in acceptance of sharks and a 3% decrease in intended shark conservation behaviors). These findings suggest positive messages about sharks on social media promote tolerance of sharks and can be more impactful than negative messages. At least one form of social media, YouTube, appears to be a valuable tool for encouraging tolerance for sharks.

Animal Conservation, DOI: 10.1111/acv.12808


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