The KnowWolf project aims to identify and overcome possible obstacles to knowledge transfer among adults. Such obstacles can originate, for example, in societal conflicts (1, 2) or in the emotional societal and media discourse of the wolf topic (3–5).
The Leibniz-Association-funded KnowWolf project is jointly carried out by Senckenberg – Leibniz Institution for Biodiversity and Earth System Research – and the Leibniz Institut für Wissensmedien. Through online surveys among adults, we first investigate which factors shape individual knowledge levels and knowledge acquisition, but also feelings of fear, threat or joy, and the perception of risks and benefits regarding wolves. In two completed surveys, we observed that participants with a lower level of factual knowledge about wolves perceived the risks associated with this species to be higher and the benefits to be lower than those with a higher knowledge level. Furthermore, knowledge levels after reading an information text about wolves was higher among participants with positive emotions towards wolves compared to participants with negative emotions. A second study, however, failed to confirm our assumption that knowledge transfer is more effective when the information text is framed to reflect one’s own emotions (i.e., when people when negative emotions get a text containing more words with negative connotations, and people with positive emotions get a text containing more words with positive connotations). Thus, for now it remains unclear how emotional barriers can be overcome when communicating knowledge about wolves. Further studies are currently in the data analysis and planning phase, respectively.
The insights of those studies are to be incorporated into an interactive, digital application for knowledge transfer. This application encompasses a quiz and an information module that facilitate societal access to current scientific knowledge about wolves. Additionally, there will be a survey module querying individual attitudes and perceptions regarding wolves, and feeds the collected data into a fourth module (see illustration). In this latter group comparison module, users get an insight into how their own data (e.g., knowledge level, attitude towards wolves, risk perception) relate to that of previous participants.
Moreover, the data of previous users can be grouped based on various criteria (e.g., experiences with wolves, wildlife value orientations), so that differences and similarities between groups can be intuitively displayed. Users can choose which of the available criteria should be applied for the grouping, and may thus independently explore the data set and draw their own conclusions. The application is planned to be available as a browser-based and installable version, but also on media stations in selected public places from spring 2022 onwards.