Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2018

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



The representation of wild primates in the nature documentary genre could have important implications for conservation and education. However, no prior research has looked at the content of this genre or its use in education. To fill this gap, the current research included a content analysis of all available documentaries focused on wild primates (n = 210) and a survey of 219 college-level anthropology instructors, with an emphasis on determining how primate biodiversity was portrayed, whether primate behavior was realistically depicted in documentaries, whether mistakes and inaccuracies were common, and how college instructors use primate documentaries as resources in their teaching. Results indicate that only a small subset of primate biodiversity was represented in documentaries, and that large-bodied, diurnal primates, especially the African apes, were overrepresented while smaller-bodied and nocturnal primates were underrepresented. The accuracy of primate behavior depictions varied by species. Compared to wild primates, primates in documentaries spent proportionally greater time traveling and engaging in social behaviors. Inaccuracies were documented for all primate taxa. Finally, the survey of anthropology instructors showed that primate documentaries were widely used in the teaching of anthropology. Based on these findings, I recommend that instructors should carefully review films before sharing them with students, and that primatologists should advocate for the accurate representation of primates in documentaries.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Crickette M. Sanz

Committee Members

Talia Dan-Cohen, David Strait, Michelle Repice, Emily Wroblewski,


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