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Inside the Yellow Rectangle: An Analysis of Nonhuman Animal Representations on National Geographic Kids Magazine Covers

By Stephen Vrla, Cameron T. Whitley, Linda Kalof

Category Journal Articles
Abstract

Nonhuman animals play significant roles in children’s lives. While research into children’s relationships with animals is thriving, an overlooked area is children’s vicarious experience of animals through realistic representations in nonfiction books, magazines, and other media. We used content analysis to examine how animals were represented on 103 National Geographic Kids magazine covers from 2004 to 2013, a magazine with an enormous readership and classroom application. Specifically, we measured the represented animals’ demographics, conservation status, levels of charisma, and degrees of anthropomorphism. We found that the covers represented charismatic mammals (mostly wildlife) more frequently than less charismatic domestic animals (mostly companion animals) who were also significantly more likely to be anthropomorphized in the images. Importantly, there were no representations of farm animals, captive animals, invertebrates, or detritivores on the covers, and their absence was a critical finding of the research. By not representing these animals, the covers may lead children to undervalue them, thus perpetuating the exploitation of vulnerable species.

Publication Title Anthrozoös
Volume 33
Issue 4
Pages 497-509
ISBN/ISSN 0892-7936
DOI 10.1080/08927936.2020.1771056
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Tags
  1. Anthropomorphism
  2. Arts and media
  3. Education
  4. Human-animal interactions
  5. Human-animal relationships
  6. periodicals