A Personal Meaning of Insects Map (
Nonhuman animal studies have a long history of exploring encounters between humans and nonhuman animals and other-than-humans (Franklin, 2005; Hall, & Brown, 2006: Haraway, 2007; Holden, 2003; Hughes, 2001). Attitudes towards nonhuman animals, as these studies reveal, arise from a complex interplay of factors involving social, cultural, biological, morphological, and physiological attributes (aposematic attributes such as bright colors, large sizes) (Barua, Gurdak, Ahmed, & Tamuly, 2012; Wagler, & Wagler, 2012; Lemelin, 2013b).
A number of studies suggest that early childhood experiences are central in fostering pro-active support of environmental causes (see Bixler, Floyd, & Hammitt, 2002; Bögeholz, 2006; Chawla, 1999; Ewert, Place, & Sibthorp, 2005; Kals, Schumacher, & Montada, 1999; Tunnicliffe, & Reiss, 1999). According to other studies, environmental and wildlife preferences are strongly correlated with the way the natural world is represented in modern popular culture, education, and scientific literature (see Barua, Gurdak, Ahmed, & Tamuly, 2012; Lemelin, 2009; Rule, & Zhbanova, 2012; Zoldosova, & Prokop, 2006). Whether it is early childhood experiences or experiential education or a combination thereof, researchers agree that awareness and knowledge are crucial for the recruitment of the next generation of naturalists and conservationists (Balmford, Clegg, Coulson, & Taylor, 2002; Kawahara, & Pyle, 2013; Sodhi, Koh, Brook, & Ng, 2004; Snaddon, Turner, & Foster, 2008), for people rarely protect that which they do not know. Predominant in nearly all these analyses is the examination of human interactions with companion animals, domestic animals, game species, and charismatic mega-fauna (Manfredo, Vaske, Brown, Decker, & Duke, 2008; Vaske, Wittmann, & Williams, 2001; Woodroffe, Simon, Thirgood, & Rabinowitz, 2005).
Although less-documented, human-insect encounters have been examined in ethnography (Laugrand, & Oosten, 2010; Lemelin, 2009; Lorimer, 2007; Raffles, 2010; Rennesson, Grimaud, & Césard, 2011), feminism (Braidotti, 2002; Plant, 1997; Zylinkska, 2001), and in children/insect interaction studies (Cardak, 2009; Lindemann-Matthies, 2002; Prokop, Prokop, Tunnicliffe, & Diran, 2007; Shepardson, 2002; Snaddon et al., 2008; Wagler, & Wagler, 2011, 2012, 2014). Other researchers (see Keller, 1993; Kim, 1993; Russell, 2009) have tended to focus on the negative aspects of human encounters with insects, often defined under the rubrics of anthropomorphism (human predisposition for nonhuman animals most “like-us”) and entomophobia (the fear of insects). While such approaches may confirm pre-conceived notions that human-insect encounters are largely negative, other authors (Lorimer, 2007; Motte-Florac & Thomas, 2003; Raffles, 2010; Sleigh, 2004, 2006, 2007; Wagler & Wagler, 2014) acknowledge that these interactions are complex, unsettling, and rewarding. Furthermore, entomophobia and anthropomorphism fail to consider the popularity (past and present) of certain insects like beetles (Evans, & Bellamy, 2000; Pearson, 2013), butterflies (Barrua et al., 2012; Leach, 2013), dragonflies (Laurent, 2000; Lemelin, 2007, 2009), and bees (Moore & Kosut, 2014; Spevak, 2013), and how the popularity of these nonhuman animals varies according to socio-cultural and environmental influences (Lemelin, 2013b; Raffles, 2010; Wagler, & Wagler, 2011, 2012).
In this exploratory study, we asked participants from various backgrounds to define insects. Since we expected that participants would differ from each other in their understanding and awareness of insects, we developed a hybrid visual-mapping method formulated from concept maps (Novak, 1980, 1998; Novak, & Gowin, 1984), cognitive maps (Kitchin, 1994; Knopf, 1981), mind maps (Buzan, 1974, 1995; Buzan, & Buzan, 2000), and personal meaning maps (
Materials and Methods
Extensively used in education where standard evaluative rubrics are required (Eppler, 2006; Wheeldon & Faubert, 2009), a concept map is “a top-down diagram showing the relationships between concepts, including cross connections among concepts, and their manifestations (examples)” (Eppler, 2006, p. 203). Somewhat less rigid than the structured concept map, a
In addition to downplaying the cognitive aspects of past studies, this approach is important because there is very little understanding of the effectiveness of current educational approaches beyond the urban centers where many of these strategies are developed by museums and zoos. Implemented and conducted in semi-urban and rural areas of the
During the fall of 2011, the
The research team comprised seven people all working under the supervision of the
From 2011 to 2013, 280
The first phase of the study (Phase 1, Stage i, or P1-
Phase 2, Stage 0 (P2-S0), consisted of participants viewing 28 video clips of stock footage set to music, containing a wide array of insects representing various orders. While we attempted to broadly represent insect orders in their natural settings, we were limited by available footage, funding, and time. An effort was made, however, to present popular or recognizable insects including ants, beetles, butterflies, damselflies, dragonflies, flies, ladybugs, grasshoppers, katydids, mantises, mosquitoes, moths, cockroaches, stick insects, and wasps in natural settings. Clip lengths varied from 10 to 15 seconds. All clips that were included in the video were randomly assigned a number from 1 to 28. We used the =RANDBETWEEN (1, 28) function in Excel 2010 to assign random order to the 28 clips. Clips were placed in a randomized order in Adobe Premier Elements 11, with a one-second dip-to-black transition between clips. The original audio from the clips was deleted and replaced with continuous ambient music licensed under a Creative Commons license. The final video was 6.01 minutes long.
Participants were asked to write down their reactions and responses to the video during Phase 2, Stage i (P2-
Following the completion of the
Furthermore, the Matrix Coding Query also incorporated negative and positive associations from both the pre- and post-video phases. By using a set list of common pre- and post-video words, it was possible to track the effect the video had on the attitudinal shifts of participants. Selections of positive and negative word associations were based on clearly defined meanings. For example, “amazing” could be exclusively considered a positive word in virtually any context, while “fear” would obviously be a negative word. Words such as “bite,” or “nature,” or “different” were ignored since without further consideration of their contexts, the value and meaning of such terms would be subject to broad interpretation.
Following this, the concept-counting approach or content analysis was used to identify which participants identified which concepts and their frequencies of occurrence (Turns, Atman, & Adams, 2000). We then examined which connections between and among different levels of concepts were deemed relevant by respondents. In order to provide greater insight into how participants made sense of, and defined, their interactions with insects, we used the participants’ terms for these nonhuman animals and not the scientific labels. The results (basic frequencies and occurrences) derived from the general analysis are presented next. These results are subsequently integrated with and compared to previous research examining human encounters with insects.
There were 67 Americans from the states of New York and Massachusetts, and 213 Canadians from the province of Ontario who completed the
As expected, the top twenty cited insect species in Phases 1 and 2 included aesthetically pleasing nonhuman animals such as butterflies (P1: n = 162; P2: n = 117), dragonflies (P1: n = 52; P2: n = 25), and ladybugs (P1: n = 44; P2: n = 43), and insects providing ecological or utilitarian functions like bees (P1: n = 254; P2: n = 139) and ants (P1: n = 200; P2: n = 96). Species often associated with negative attributes like flies (P1: n = 289; P2: n = 84), mosquitoes (P1: n = 200; P2: n = 65), and wasps (P1: n = 78; P2: n = 14) were also cited frequently. These findings help to confirm the popularity of butterflies and bees in North America and to a lesser extent, support the importance of certain well-known utilitarian species like bees (Barua et al., 2012; Guiney & Oberhauser, 2008; Small, 2011, 2012). Although the ranking of flies and ants in Phases 1 and 2 ahead of all other insect species was somewhat unexpected, perhaps these findings should not be surprising when one considers how prevalent these nonhuman animals are in human societies and how present they are in our recreational activities (Lemelin, 2013b; Schutze & Jacobs, 2009).
Although focused on insects, participants mostly defined these nonhuman animals under the rubric of bugs (see Table 3). When unprompted, they felt more comfortable using the common term bugs in both P1 (n = 345) and P2 (n = 177), and the common names associated with these nonhuman animals. Not one participant used Latin terminology or any of the taxonomic classifications (apart from insect) to define these nonhuman animals. Furthermore, although this was a study of insects, non-insects were mentioned frequently in both Phases 1 and 2 by participants: spiders (P1: n = 150; P2: n = 26), ticks (P1: n = 50; P2: n = 8), worms (P1: n = 30; P2: n = 3), and centipedes (P1: n = 24; P2: n = 10). Millipedes (P1: n = 5; P2: n = 1) were also mentioned, though less frequently. Bugs were defined by some respondents as “bad” (P1: n = 71; P2: n = 33), “creepy” (P1: n = 73; P2: n = 22), and “gross” (P1: n = 52; P2: n = 21). Others suggested that insects were “scary” (P1: n = 49; P2: n = 25), “fearsome” (P1: n = 48; P2: n = 13), and “hated” (P1: n = 41; P2: n = 13). Some individuals described insects as “fascinating” and/or “interesting” (P1: n = 122; P2: n = 89), “cool” (P1: n = 51; P2: n = 43), “beneficial” (P1: n = 40; P2: n = 12), and “amazing” (P1: n = 29; P2: n = 39). Others noted the “beauty” of insects (P1: n = 143; P2: n = 141) and their “love” (P1: n = 55; P2: n = 25) for these nonhuman animals.
While not empirically significant, the percent change in word occurrence following the viewing of the video indicates a decline in every negative association (see Table 4). Similar to the observations of Wagler and Wagler (2012), these findings suggest that negative perceptions may be somewhat malleable and can be affected positively by images. However, it is also important to note that the number of positive associations with insects only increased on one occasion (amazement); generally, they decreased. These trends may have been due to participants providing most of their information in Phase 1 (Stages i and ii) and perhaps indicative of participant fatigue in the latter phases. Although the video did not provide the same experiential learning opportunities that would be available in museums or zoos, our analysis of the responses to the video suggest that it did reduce certain negative inclinations toward insects. However, it should be noted that positive dimensions associated with insects did not necessarily increase as a result of the video.
When participants were asked to cite or describe educational and interpretation strategies that they had used to learn more about insects, they noted experiential education (n = 35), the Internet (n = 30), videos (n = 25), education (n = 25), and childhood experiences (n = 21) (see Table 5). Other important sources of information included reading materials (n = 14),
Discussion and Conclusions
The findings from this inductive study largely confirm the findings from other studies that have noted the conflicting (Kellert, 1993), ambivalent (Lorimer, 2007), and positive (Lemelin, 2009; Moore, & Kosut, 2014; Raffles, 2013) aspects of human encounters with insects. Similar to the conclusions reached by Lemelin (2009, 2013b) and Moore and Kosut (2013) in their discussions of inter- and intra-species/order disparity, participants tended to note butterflies (P1: n = 162; P2: n = 117), bees (P1: n = 254; P2: n = 139), and dragonflies (P1: n = 52; P2: n = 25) while overlooking moths (P1: n = 50; P2: n = 18), wasps (P1: n = 78; P2: n = 14), and damselflies (P1: n = 2; P2: n = 1). Each of these nonhuman animals was featured in the video, so this apparent disparity within some of the most popular insect orders like Hymenoptera (bees, wasps, ants), Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), and Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) cannot be explained by a lack of images in the video. These findings could perhaps be associated with negative emotions directed towards moths and wasps when compared to butterflies and bees (inter-order apathy), the diminutive size of some of these nonhuman animals (e.g., damselflies) (Lemelin, 2009, 2013b), a tendency to lump certain insects (e.g., dragonflies, damselflies) into one general category known as dragonflies, and/or a general lack of knowledge about insects. Other findings (e.g., the ranking of flies, ants, and mosquitoes above dragonflies and ladybugs) were surprising; however, perhaps the significance of flies, ants, and mosquitoes should not be that surprising, after all humans encounter them in many aspects of life. Concerns were expressed that some of these nonhuman animals can transmit disease, while the bite and sting of mosquitoes, blackflies, and horseflies are particularly disruptive to outdoor recreational activities, whether they occur in urban, rural, or wilderness areas (Schutze, & Jacobs, 2009). In other situations, respondents were more ambivalent, suggesting that human-insect encounters were largely contextual. Thus, in certain situations (i.e., during certain outdoor activities), human encounters with insects may be tolerated and even welcomed. In other instances (i.e., in one’s home), these interactions would not be welcomed.
Human-insect encounters and how they are recalled appear to trigger emotional reactions rather than scientific, intellectual responses (Zylstra, 2014), thereby supporting the discussions of Bell and Baker (1982) and Woods (2000) who noted that some respondents in their studies were often confused by how insects were defined, and opted to use more common terms or generic terms like bugs to define these nonhuman animals. For example, in this study not one participant used a Latin name to define these nonhuman animals. Perhaps this is indicative of a general lack of knowledge, or possibly, of how the general public makes sense of these nonhuman animals. When comparing these findings with the manner in which other recreationists like birders and fishers refer to them, they are not unexpected, for many birders and fishers use common names to define and describe highly prized nonhuman animals.
These findings appear to challenge the approaches taken in some citizen science projects and at insect symposiums where science and taxonomy hold sway and new initiates are often corrected and expected to use the proper scientific labels when describing insects (Yen, Yao, & Mintzes, 2007; Prokop, Prokop, & Tunnicliffe, 2008; Lemelin, 2009). Although responses by participants to what actually is an insect may perhaps be disappointing to taxonomists and entomologists, the role of insects and the general nomenclature of these nonhuman animals illustrate how our interactions with them are conceived, defined, and interpreted. As Cardoso, Erwin, Borges, and New (2011) explain, while there is certainly a time and place for taxonomic rigor, the expert-driven model in education and interpretation may be of limited value for general audiences. Indeed, using common names for species during public outreach strategies “may radically change the public perception regarding invertebrates” (Cardoso, Erwin, Borges, & New, 2011, pp. 2649-2650). Given this, it is crucial to understand and respect how the general public perceives or views these nonhuman animals.
Educational strategies emphasizing the ecological roles that many insects play in pollination, decomposition, and bio-control could be developed to engage, challenge, and encourage participants to learn more about insects through various media including experiential dimensions offered through bug camps, symposia, citizen science (Johansen & Auger, 2013; Kawahara & Pyle, 2013; Rykken & Farrell, 2013), education (Blackawton, Airzee, Allen, Baker, Berrow, Blair, & Lotto, 2011; Ernst, Vinke, Giberson, & Buddle, 2013), technology, and new media (Mitchell, 2013). Certainly, more research on the benefits of accurate bug identification and knowledge might have the positive outcome of clarifying the general population’s misconceptions about individual species and decelerate the perpetuation of stereotyping certain nonhuman animal species. This would have the effect of reducing a generalized declaration such as “I hate bugs” to specifying “I hate spiders” and may perhaps allow for an acceptance of certain benign species.
The limited references to conservation programs and nature clubs (which were active in the regions where the
Findings from Phase 3 were consistent with Kathy et al. (2012) Operation Spider study in Australia where they noted that some respondents sought information pertaining to insects in traditional sources (books, libraries, radio) while others relied on the Internet and social media. These findings support earlier discussions that highlight the role and importance of early childhood exposure to nature and nonhuman animals as well as the importance of education, and traditional and new media. Some of the movies featuring cartoon insects like A Bug’s Life (1998), Antz (1998), and Bee Movie (2007) were cited by some participants as being part of their earliest exposures to the world of insects. The research on whether animated fauna depicted in movies actually promotes conservation behavior is pretty clear: the exposure received from these movies without any ongoing support is insufficient (Goldman, 2014). What these films can do, however, as Goldman (2014) explains, is engage and challenge participants.
As our study illustrates, the visuals engaged respondents and helped to remind participants of the popularity of certain species like bees and butterflies, and the aesthetic appeal of dragonflies, praying mantises, and ladybugs. In some cases, the visual was enough to remind certain participants that they did indeed like certain types of insects. Although we sought to standardize the research approach and limit interactions between the data recorder and the participants, a collaborative and engaging visual approach could also be fostered. Consisting of
We thank the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for providing the necessary funding to conduct this research. We would also like to thank the editor and two anonymous referees for their helpful comments on earlier drafts, and all the individuals who participated in the study.
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