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Communicating risk in human-wildlife interactions: how stories and images move minds

Citation

Guenther, Sara; Shanahan, Elizabeth (2020), Communicating risk in human-wildlife interactions: how stories and images move minds, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.v6wwpzgtr

Abstract

Effectively communicating risk is critical to reducing conflict in human-wildlife interactions. Using a survey experiment fielded in the midst of contentious public debate over flying fox management in urban and suburban areas of Australia, we find that stories with characters (i.e., narratives) are more effective than descriptive information at mobilizing support for different forms of bat management, including legal protection, relocation, and habitat restoration. We use conditional process analysis to show that narratives, particularly with accompanying images, are effective because they cause emotional reactions that influence risk perception, which in turn drives public opinion about strategies for risk mitigation. We find that prior attitudes towards bats matter in how narrative messages are received, in particular in how strongly they generate shifts in affective response, risk perception, and public opinion. Our results suggest that those with warm prior attitudes towards bats report greater support for bat dispersal when they perceive impacts from bats to be more likely, while those with cool priors report greater support for bat protection when they perceive impacts from bats to be more positive, revealing 1) potential opportunities for targeted messaging to boost public buy-in of proposals to manage risks associated with human-wildlife interactions, and 2) potential vulnerabilities to disinformation regarding risk.