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Utah's Foremost Platform for Undergraduate Research Presentation
2022 Abstracts

How exposure to negative and positive images of animals affects connectedness to nature.

Presenters: Zach Wiener ; Hannah Whitmer ; Jonathan Kline ; Jocelyn McKay
Authors: Hannah Whitmer, Zachary Wiener, Jonathan Kline, Jocelyn McKay, Nolan Belnap, Jonothon Astle
Faculty Advisor: Julie Pynn
Institution: Southern Utah University

Environmental identity is defined as how one views oneself in relation to the natural world (Irkhin, 2020). The Connectedness to Nature Scale (CNS), measures the level of this psychological concept in an individual (Mayer & Frantz, 2004). Johnson-Pynn, et al. (2014), discovered that participants' connection to nature increased as a result of direct contact with wild animals in the context of field research. Studies have also shown that technological nature, including images and videos of nature, impacts individuals in a similar way as real-life nature (Deringer & Hanley, 2021). We aim to show the impact of exposure to emotion-evoking digital photographs of human-affected animals on a person's perceived connectedness to nature. We predict that exposure to negative images of animals, such as a bird with trash in its stomach, a turtle with plastic soda rings deforming its shell, and perishing animals due to the loss of their habitats will cause a greater increase in one's connectedness to nature compared to viewing positive or pleasant images, such as playful dogs or elephants because negative images will evoke a stronger emotional response. This study will show the power images of animals have on people's relation with the natural world, thus having important implications for environmental advocacy. The importance of the study showing the impact of negative images has the potential to increase one’s connectedness to nature which could lead to an increase in environmental advocacy.