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Mackenzie Bennett

Animal Biographies: Measuring the Efficacy of Empathy Adjacent Language


Zoo Boise acts as a center for education, conservation, and entertainment for the community of Boise, Idaho. They are also a center for multiple forms of science communication, aiding in educating the community on species from across the world and the environmental problems they face. To encourage empathy for the individual animals housed at Zoo Boise and motivate visitors to care for their species, Zoo Boise has begun to introduce new signage to certain zoo exhibits. While the typical exhibit signage contains general facts about entire species, the empathy-based signage showcases the life history, individual factoids (e.g. favorite foods, etc.), and names of individual animals. To test whether the new signage encourages empathy, we propose a comparative test between two dyads of Zoo Boise exhibits, using a short survey to compare visitor responses to exhibits with empathy signage and those without. The differences in empathetic engagement between the two
signage types can then be measured, informing Zoo Boise of the efficacy of their new signage in motivating empathetic engagement in visitors. This may act as another important step in evaluating Zoo Boise’s approach to science communication and visitor education. The results of this study can then potentially be utilized by other AZA accredited zoos who may also benefit from empathy-based signage.