Ominous music linked to negative perception of sharks, study finds

I like to imagine methodology involved the scientists getting baked and watching Jaws

Christopher Hooton
Monday 08 August 2016 13:33 BST
(Morne Hardenberg/Atlantic Edge Films/BBC)

Science has finally made a pretty self-evident truth empirical: sharks are scarier when set to ‘ominous background music’.

In a study literally called: ‘The Effect of Background Music in Shark Documentaries on Viewers' Perceptions of Sharks’ researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego showed over 2,000 participants 60-second video clips of sharks swimming - one silent, one set to uplifting music and one set to ominous music.

“This is the first study to demonstrate empirically that the connotative attributes of background music accompanying shark footage affect viewers’ attitudes toward sharks,” said lead author Andrew P. Nosal.

The scientists set up a control involving audio-only treatments to prove the negative response was not simply based on the soundtracks alone.

It might be an obvious finding, but the study carries an important message.

“Despite the ongoing need for shark conservation and management, prevailing negative sentiments marginalize these animals and legitimize permissive exploitation,” Nosal wrote.

“These negative attitudes arise from an instinctive, yet exaggerated fear, which is validated and reinforced by disproportionate and sensationalistic news coverage of shark ‘attacks’ and by highlighting shark-on-human violence in popular movies and documentaries.

“Given that nature documentaries are often regarded as objective and authoritative sources of information, it is critical that documentary filmmakers and viewers are aware of how the soundtrack can affect the interpretation of the educational content.”

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