CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Just in time for Shark Week, scientists now think the movie Jaws may have created a generation with an irrational fear of sharks. Scientists call it The Jaws Effect: a belief that sharks intentionally attack humans. In an interview with CBS, psychologist Gabriella Hancock explained that even though sharks actually tend to leave people alone, people are still scared of them. A Shark Lab researcher went on to say media influences people’s attitudes and tends to exaggerate the dangers sharks pose.
Author Peter Benchley, who wrote the book that inspired the movie, has even expressed regret for penning the novel, which he now feels indulges false beliefs about sharks.
Other conservationists say shark-centered media focuses on shock value and entertainment over scientific data and facts. Harry Baker of Marine Madness says, “In the last few decades there have been dozens of questionable documentaries that give sharks a bad rep. Inspired by movies like Jaws and long running TV campaigns, like Shark Week, these documentaries tend to prioritizes maximum entertainment value at the expense of including scientific data and highlighting important conservation issues.”
The data shows that sharks tend to stay away from people. In fact, scientists say you have better chance of winning the lottery then you do being attacked by a shark. If a shark does come at you, scientists say it’s probably because they’re curious about you or mistook you for its normal prey.
Our question of the night: do you think Jaws made people more afraid of sharks?
This episode features:
WCCB TV’s Morgan Fogarty
WCCB TV’s Zach Aldridge