Testing the Effect of Aquarium-Based Learning on Patron Acceptance of Evolutionary Theory


  • Ethan R. Tolman Brigham Young University
  • Spencer Shumway Brigham Young University
  • Liam Williams Boise State University
  • Jamie Jensen Brigham Young University




evolution acceptance, nature of science, reconciliation


Public rejection of science has long been a concern of the scientific community and has the potential to cause great societal harm. Using public acceptance of evolutionary theory as the model, this study set out to examine if zoos and aquariums could address this issue using methods known to increase evolutionary acceptance in formal education settings. The data were obtained at the Aquarium of Boise (Idaho, USA), where participants (n=64) completed a two-part survey and participated in a 15-min presentation. The first half of the survey asked various demographic questions, along with questions that measured their openness, acceptance and belief of the theory of evolution. Participants then participated in a live animal presentation that presented the theory of evolution in a way known to increase acceptance in a formal educational setting. Following the presentation, participants were directed to answer the second half of the survey asking them to reevaluate their openness, acceptance and belief of evolutionary theory. The research showed a significant number of individuals (P<0.001) shifted towards a more positive view of evolutionary theory. The regression model was able to significantly predict initial view of evolution (F(1206303.081, 241260.616)=4.874, P<0.001, R2=0.296), but there is nothing that correlates with a propensity to shift towards a more positive view of evolution. Thus, this study shows that it is possible for zoos and aquariums to use techniques found to be effective in formal educational settings to increase public acceptance of controversial scientific topics.




How to Cite

Tolman, E. R., Shumway, S., Williams, L., & Jensen, J. (2021). Testing the Effect of Aquarium-Based Learning on Patron Acceptance of Evolutionary Theory. Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research, 9(2), 102–109. https://doi.org/10.19227/jzar.v9i2.542