The impact of an insect-themed environmental science course on undergraduate students' feelings about insects

Monday, November 17, 2014: 11:48 AM
Portland Ballroom 255 (Oregon Convention Center)
Amanda R. Lorenz , Department of Entomology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Julie Libarkin , Department of Geological Sciences, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Gabriel Ording , Center for Integrative Studies in General Science, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Insects play vital roles in the ecology of terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems. Despite their importance, insects are widely disliked and inspire negative feelings in many people, which can be detrimental to insect conservation. Previous studies have demonstrated that habituation to a distasteful item, such as dissection specimens, increases interest in that item and decreases negative feelings. To determine whether increased exposure to insects affects emotional responses, we surveyed undergraduate students in two general science courses (“A” and “B”) at a major Midwestern university. Both courses focus on basic ecology and environmental sustainability, are directed at non-science majors, and fulfill a general science requirement. Course A uses insects frequently as teaching tools while Course B does not. We measured disgust sensitivity toward insects at both the beginning and end of semester in each course using a Likert-scaled survey of Pathogen-Insect Disgust. Data from both courses were compared using independent and paired-samples t-tests in order to determine whether significant change in Pathogen-Insect Disgust occurred after instruction. Results from this study indicate that entomological instruction can affect disgust targeted towards insects. This is particularly important given that positive knowledge about specific animal groups has been shown to increase people’s willingness to support conservation efforts for those animals.
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