Despite a growing body of literature on public views on biodiversity and nature, our understanding of public attitudes towards animal and plant species is still rudimentary. This study investigates mental representations, constituted by beliefs, of three types of species (a large mammal, a spider and a non-native plant), and explores their links with cultural factors such as value orientations and cultural capital, in order to better understand attitudes towards these species. We conducted a survey in eight sites across Europe (n = 2378) and found strong relationships between beliefs about species, in particular with regard to their harmlessness, value and previous population change, and the desirability of an increase in this species. Other beliefs, such as perceived nativeness, were less influential. We discuss how respondents combined beliefs to mental representations of species, and show how representations are related to species-independent factors that tap respondents' cultural context, such as socially shared value orientations and education.
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