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Understanding and Enhancing the Role of the Mass Media in Evolutionary Psychology Education

Evolution: Education and Outreach ISSN 1936-6426 Volume 4 Number 1 Evo Edu Outreach (2011) 4:75-82 DOI 10.1007/ s12052-010-0302-5

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Evo Edu Outreach (2011) 4:75–82 DOI 10.1007/s12052-010-0302-5

ORIGINAL SCIENTIFIC ARTICLE

Understanding and Enhancing the Role of the Mass Media in Evolutionary Psychology Education Maryanne L. Fisher & Daniel J. Kruger & Justin R. Garcia

Published online: 6 January 2011 # Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Abstract Mass media has always been a prominent source of science information for the general public, and more so than academic journals. The diversification of media with specialized online outlets and the participatory nature of the Internet have opened opportunities, as well as challenges, for researchers and educators. This paper represents our attempt to address this issue with respect to human evolutionary behavioral sciences, and suggest ways to successfully navigate interactions with the mass media for effective evolutionary education. We briefly review how one can interact with the mass media for educational purposes, focusing on how best to situate one’s research within evolutionary theory. We describe our own experiences and those of other academic colleagues who have received mass media attention, noting both positive and negative results. We also provide specific tips on how to best interact with various forms of media.

Keywords Mass media . Education . Evolution . Interviews . Experiences Over the past decade, educators have increasingly recognized the need for the development of evolutionary-based curriculum at the university and high school levels (O’Brien 2009; Wilson 2007). In some cases, universitylevel scholars are trying to directly reach teachers in an effort to help them shape their curriculum so that it reflects sound, scientific principles (e.g., Purrington 2009). This need for assistance is not trivial. For example, Berkman et al. (2008) surveyed American high school biology teachers and found that one in eight teaches creationism as a viable alternative to evolutionary theory, and that the majority only spend between three and fifteen hours covering evolution. Most teachers spend even less time (i.e., no more than five hours) on human evolution. Berkman et al. (2008) suggest that certification standards need to be raised to ensure that biology teachers are properly prepared to teach evolutionary theory, and that they do not allow personal religious views to prevent them from educating students. This attention can be viewed as partly in reaction to the intrusion of non-scientific perspectives in the science classroom, and partly proactive by ensuring that future scientists and other students accurately comprehend the basics of scientific thought. Indeed, the recent formation of the Evolutionary Studies (EvoS) Consortium indicates that there is much interest amongst scientists in ensuring that evolutionary theory is sufficiently and accurately represented in higher-education pedagogy. The EvoS Consortium initiative is impressive, considering that it provides a unifying network that spans multiple universities, includes various fields of study, and has led to the creation of an academic journal (see Wilson et al. 2009).

M. L. Fisher (*) Department of Psychology, Saint Mary’s...
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