Assessing the Connotative Meaning of Animals Using Semantic Differential Techniques to Aid in Zoo Exhibit Development

September 1st, 2006 | RESEARCH

This paper presents results from the testing of a simple visitor survey tool modeled on traditional semantic differential techniques to identify socially agreed traits or attributes that might influence audience bias toward an exhibit species. The authors from the Wildlife Conservation Society Institute suggest that understanding these connotative meanings can aid exhibit developers in the creation of experiences. Five tests were conducted with this methodology, each focused on a different animal (dolphins, sharks, cheetahs, zebras, and African wild dogs). With four of the subject animals, a set of traits emerged as those visitors commonly associated with the animal. For the fifth animal, the African wild dog, only one trait emerged as a strong descriptor, indicating a neutral response among the public. In each case, these findings were used by exhibit developers to shape the interpretive messages and plan for an exhibit. This article discusses the benefits and limitations of using this methodology in an exhibit design process and concludes that the method is useful for addressing preconceptions about what visitors think.

Document

VSA-a0a2r4-a_5730.pdf

Team Members

John Fraser, Author, Wildlife Conservation Society Institute
Jessica Bicknell, Author, Wildlife Conservation Society Institute
Jessica Sickler, Author, Wildlife Conservation Society Institute

Citation

Identifier Type: issn
Identifier: 1064-5578

Publication: Visitor Studies Today!
Volume: 9
Number: 3
Page(s): 1

Tags

Audience: Evaluators | General Public | Museum | ISE Professionals
Discipline: Education and learning science | Life science
Resource Type: Peer-reviewed article | Research Products
Environment Type: Aquarium and Zoo Exhibits | Exhibitions

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This material is supported by National Science Foundation award DRL-2229061, with previous support under DRL-1612739, DRL-1842633, DRL-1212803, and DRL-0638981. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations contained within InformalScience.org are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.

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