Thanks a lot, Steven Spielberg and John Williams, for forever creeping us out about sharks. Spielberg's 1975 movie "Jaws" wouldn't have been quite as terrifying without Williams' "duunnn dunnn" music, and we all know it.
Now a study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One has quantified our quivering. Researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego showed 2,100 people a shark clip from the BBC's "Blue Planet" documentary series and either set it to ominous or uplifting music or let it run silently.
"Participants who viewed a video clip set to ominous music rated sharks more negatively and less positively than those who watched the same clip set to uplifting music or to silence," the researchers wrote.
Why does it matter? Researchers think documentary makers should choose their music carefully, because no matter how the sharks are presented in the video, the music may change viewers' attitudes. While researchers didn't find that participants changed their attitudes about shark conservation after viewing one of the clips, they do feel it could hold sway.
"Filmmakers, journalists and exhibit designers set the tone of their works, and, while an ominous soundtrack may enhance their entertainment aspect, it may also undermine their educational value by biasing viewers' perceptions of sharks," the researchers wrote. "This, in turn, may impede legitimate shark conservation efforts and fuel counterproductive management programs like culling and setting shark nets."