The release of the movie The Shallows is unlikely to restore the reputation of great white sharks, which has barely recovered since Jaws. But even nature documentaries can generate unnecessarily negative emotions in viewers depending on the background music used.
Researchers have been playing footage of sharks accompanied by various soundtracks. After seeing the clips, viewers reported a more negative attitude to the predators if the music had been ominous compared to when a more uplifting score was used – or no music was played at all.
The researchers argue that using the wrong sort of music could hamper shark conservation efforts.
“Given that nature documentaries are often regarded as objective sources of information, it’s critical that filmmakers and viewers are aware of how the soundtrack can affect the interpretation of the content,” said Andrew Nosal, who led the research at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, San Diego.
Main image: Films such as Jaws have given the great white a frightening reputation that many argue is greatly exaggerated. © Rasmus Raahauge/iStock