Cryptid Communication: Media Messages and Public Beliefs About Cryptozoology

Wyatt Dawson, Paul R. Brewer, Liam Cuddy


Popular documentary television programs and news outlets have prominently featured messages about cryptids, or creatures whose existence mainstream science has not confirmed. Building on cultivation theory and priming theory, the present study tests how patterns in media use and exposure to specific media messages predict belief in these creatures. The study also draws on uses and gratifications theory to explore how motivations for consuming paranormal television predict belief in cryptids. Analyses of data from two national surveys (2021: N = 1,032; 2022: N = 1,020) incorporating random assignment to different image treatments demonstrate that viewing paranormal documentaries and reality programs predicts belief in cryptids, as does consuming paranormal news. Moreover, exposure to images priming television documentary programs about cryptids bolsters belief in such creatures. Informational uses of paranormal television predict belief in multiple cryptids. These findings suggest potential directions for future research on media use, media messages, and fringe beliefs.


cryptids, cultivation theory, priming theory, media use, paranormal television

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