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Specific Image Characteristics Influence Attitudes about Chimpanzee Conservation and Use as Pets
Published: Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Author: Stephen R. Ross et al.

by Stephen R. Ross, Vivian M. Vreeman, Elizabeth V. Lonsdorf

Chimpanzees are endangered in their native Africa but in the United States, they are housed not only in zoos and research centers but owned privately as pets and performers. In 2008, survey data revealed that the public is less likely to think that chimpanzees are endangered compared to other great apes, and that this is likely the result of media misportrayals in movies, television and advertisements. Here, we use an experimental survey paradigm with composite images of chimpanzees to determine the effects of specific image characteristics. We found that those viewing a photograph of a chimpanzee with a human standing nearby were 35.5% more likely to consider wild populations to be stable/healthy compared to those seeing the exact same picture without a human. Likewise, the presence of a human in the photograph increases the likelihood that they consider chimpanzees as appealing as a pet. We also found that respondents seeing images in which chimpanzees are shown in typically human settings (such as an office space) were more likely to perceive wild populations as being stable and healthy compared to those seeing chimpanzees in other contexts. These findings shed light on the way that media portrayals of chimpanzees influence public attitudes about this important and endangered species.
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