Charisma and Culture

Over 29% of species are threatened by extinction and 477 vertebrates have gone extinct since 1900. People worldwide donate 100s of millions of pounds annually to prevent these extinctions. We know people are more likely to donate money to larger charismatic animals like the tiger. But why do some animals receive so much more conservation attention and funding than others?

Why are tigers so popular?

We are investigating this question, thanks to funding from the National Geographic Society. The results of our first study from this project are now available! We found that participants prefered large, multi-coloured and cool-toned imaginary animals, and we could use these characteristics to predict the number of donations given to real animals. You can read about the research here, or watch the short video summary below:

Like all the studies in this project, we used imaginary animals designed by the artist Rory McCann. When trying to investigate why some animals are more popular than others, it's difficult to determine whether people's preferences are as a result of the animal's appearance, or because of things people know about the animals, like how rare they are. As the animals we use are fictional, we can determine whether differences in preferences are due to the appearance of the animals themselves, or due to the information we provide about the fictional animals.


Watch this page to find out more about the project as it progresses! 

An example of an imaginary animal drawn by Rory McCann



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