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This review of how dolphins are portrayed in popular media (including literature, film, television, and music) reveals four themes that may influence public acceptance of current scientific research into dolphin cognition. These themes are: (a) dolphin as peer to humans, of equal intelligence or at least capable of communicating with or helping humans; (b) the dolphin as the representation of a romantic notion of ideal freedom in nature, embodying principles of peace, harmony or love; (c) the dolphin as a naïve, innocent being that is subordinate and in need of human protection; and (d) the dolphin as superior to humans, potentially affiliating with a higher power or intelligence. This review revealed that the use of dolphins in humor reinforced or lampooned the four identified themes, indicating a common acceptance of these themes. The paper concludes with a discussion of the importance of considering popular narratives in the presentation of scientific research results.

In: Society & Animals