The Importance of Being Colorful and Able to Fly: Interpretation and implications of children's statements on selected insects and other invertebrates
Schlegel, Jürg; ; Rupf, Reto (2015). The Importance of Being Colorful and Able to Fly: Interpretation and implications of children's statements on selected insects and other invertebrates. International Journal of Science Education, 37(16), 2664–2687. Peer reviewed.;
Children have served as research subjects in several surveys on attitudes to insects and invertebrates. Most of the studies have used quantitative scoring methods to draw conclusions. This paper takes a different approach as it analyzes children's free-text comments to gain an understanding of their viewpoints. A total of 246 children aged 9–13 completed a standard questionnaire regarding their attitudes toward 18 invertebrates indigenous to Switzerland. Fourteen insect species and four other invertebrates were individually presented in a color photograph without any further background information. The children were given the opportunity to provide comments on each animal to explain the attitude score they had awarded. Nearly 5,000 comments were coded and categorized into 7 positive and 9 negative categories. A significant correlation between fear and disgust was not detected. Based on a hierarchical cluster analysis, we concluded that flying in the air versus crawling on the ground was a major differentiator for attitude and underlying reasons, only being trumped by the fear of getting stung. The visualization of our findings in a cluster heat map provided further insights into shared statement categories by species. Our analysis establishes that fear and disgust are separate emotions with regard to insects and other invertebrates. Based on our findings, we believe that prejudice-based fear and culturally evolved revulsion can be overcome. We suggest promoting environmental education programs, especially if they allow for personal experience, provide information in emotion-activating formats, and include content that resolves existing misinformation and myths.