While it makes for a very interesting social psychology experiment, the premise of the Holding Power article had me putting my forehead in my palm. I grew up in the mountains and am a regular camper; bear safety has been carved deep into the surface of my poor squishy mind. The fact that 521 people had encounters with bears in Yosemite over the course of 9 years due to poor food storage is pretty sad, that’s 57 encounters every year. That being said, I understand the importance of making sure people know what steps they need to take to protect themselves, their belongings, and the bears.
The article centers around a proactive experiment in which several types of signs were exhibited around the park in hopes of increasing safe food storage. The researchers decided that they could pack the most punch by using humor, empathy, narration, vivid titles, or combinations of these. Their signs were pretty clever- it’s only natural that the hypothesized outcome of posting them was very good. However, humans proved once again that we might be more attention deficient than squirrels (that’s not a literal metaphor… I hope).
I was surprised by the lack of attention commanded by the humorous signs. While the article did say that the Ten Reasons sign was confusing for some, the Attention Humans sign uses the perfect amount of humor and call for empathy, I’d have expected the results to be better. My Bear Story generated the best response among viewers, but I found it to be a little contrived and less informative than the others. That’s a nice way of saying it was corny.
In conclusion, the general public will pay little attention to a sign that takes less than 30 seconds to read- regardless of it’s content- because they are either disinterested or feel like they know everything. Perhaps the lack of a present authority figure encourages this, people like feeling like they don’t need to be told what to do- they’ll always do it right. All 57 “victims” of bear encounters each year.