Entertainment and Science Content in Shark Week – Viewer Perceptions and Attitudinal Outcomes



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Over the last thirty years, Discovery Channel has run a weeklong special called Shark Week, which features researchers, celebrity guests, and shark experts. Throughout that time, there has been a significant shift in content from science content to entertainment content, causing distrust within both the scientific and audience communities. The aim of this research project was to see two things - first, do Shark Week viewers view the influence and credibility of Shark Week’s science content and entertainment content differently; second, does such content, in terms of its perceived influence and credibility, influence shark-related attitudes? A survey was administered to Shark Week viewers (n = 393) using Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk). Viewers were able to differentiate the science content from entertainment content, labeling science content as more credible. That said, entertainment content was seen as having more of an influence on Shark Week content, though. Additionally, science content was positively associated with (pro-shark) behavior and policy support; the more influence people felt such content had, the more positive their (pro-shark) behavior and policy support. No associations were found between entertainment credibility or influence and shark attitudes. These findings reaffirmed my contribution to existing research on this topic along with (potential) practical implications.



Message, Credibility, Communication, Shark Week