Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management

Committee Member

Dr. Robert D. Bixler, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Dorothy L. Schmalz

Committee Member

Dr. Cynthia L.S. Pury


Insects and their kin (bugs) are among the most detested and despised creatures on earth. Irrational fears of these mostly harmless organisms often restrict and prevent opportunities for outdoor recreation and leisure. Alternatively, Shipley and Bixler (2016) theorize that direct and positive experiences with bugs during middle childhood may result in fascination with insects leading to comfort in wildland settings. The objective of this research was to examine and identify the novel and unfamiliar bug types that people are more likely to find interesting and visually attend to when spontaneously presented with their images. This research examined these questions through four integrated exploratory studies. The first study (n = 216) found that a majority of adults are unfamiliar with a majority of bugs, despite the abundance of many common but "˜unfamiliar' bugs. The second (n = 15) and third (n = 308) study examined participant's first impressions of unfamiliar bugs. The second study consisted of in-depth interviews, while the third study had participants report their perceptions of bugs across multiple emotional dimensions. Together, both studies suggest there are many unfamiliar bugs that are perceptually novel and perceived as interesting when encountered. The fourth study (n = 48) collected metrics of visual attention using eye-tracking by measuring visual fixations while participants viewed different bugs identified through previous studies as either being interesting or disinteresting. The findings of the fourth study suggest that interesting bugs can capture more visual attention than uninteresting bugs. Results from all four studies provide a heuristic for interpretive naturalists, magazine editors, marketers, public relation advisors, filmmakers, and any other visual communication professional that can be used in the choice of images of unfamiliar images of insects and other small invertebrates to evoke situational interest and motivate subsequent behavior.



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