Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Craig Bowman

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Katherine N Parrish


From a young age people are infatuated with lovable representations of wildlife through childhood cinema, cartoons, children’s books, and other media. We crave the dose of serotonin we receive when we are in close proximity to these amazing creatures, and if we cannot be near them in-person, we turn to the screen to learn about their lives and behavior. There is a sense of ambivalence surrounding animals in captivity; we itch to see them, yet some scholars have even compared the captivity of animals to colonialism. As adults, people are introduced to these concerning realities when animal activist documentaries reveal the problems surrounding captive animals in environments they have grown up attending regularly.

A psychological lens is used to analyze how captive animal documentaries attempt to construct negative emotion arousal and attitude/behavioral change. First, existing literature involving fear, cognitive dissonance theory and negative state relief model is reviewed. Then, theories from these concepts are applied specifically in order to dissect two captive animal documentaries: Blackfish and The Ghosts in Our Machine.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.