Attractions industry news

01 Oct 2019

Neuroscience gets into the mind of the museum visitor

Every museum would like to know more about what goes through its visitors minds as they wander the floors looking at exhibits. How emotionally or intellectually engaged are they by an artwork? How much information about each exhibit is it optimal to provide to visitors?

Dr Tedi Asher of the Peabody Essex Museum in Massachusetts is in the process of researching exactly how these factors and others impact upon visitor experience at the Salem-based museum: in fact, she is the first neuroscientist to be based at a museum.

Speaking to Attractions Management, Asher revealed what results had been gathered from the research undertaken since her appointment in 2017, and signposted the next directions that her work will take.

One study conducted has used gaze-tracking glasses and galvanic skin response, which measures sweat produced, to gauge attention, emotion and memory. Groups were given different levels of prompts – from no prompt at all, to judgement prompts (asking if they were moved by a piece of artwork) – as they looked around a three-gallery exhibition.

The data from the research found that those who received a judgement prompt spent longer looking and had a more intense emotional experience than those who received lesser prompts or none at all. Those with prompts also moved more slowly through the exhibition.

"This supported our hypothesis that the judgement prompt would be the most effective kind of prompt in facilitating engagement, because of the brain regions which are active when we have an emotionally moving aesthetic experience," said Asher.

The study did throw out an anomaly, however – one that is as yet unexplained. In an exit survey, those in the no prompt group perceived themselves to have had a more emotional experience than any of the prompted groups – the opposite of what the biometric data suggested.

Further research studies have been planned to harness eye-tracking technology to look at how people use labels, and the intention is also to start implementing neuroscience findings into an actual exhibition. The Peabody Essex Museum plans to share its findings via a new website.

Asher says she hopes that more scientists will enter the museum community to help grow this field, and says that doing so has stretched her professionally.

"I was trained to interpret data very strictly, but in this role I'm finding there is an art to interpreting the data," she said. "It requires some imagination and extrapolation about what a particular finding could mean in the context of an art exhibition, and it's taken a while to develop that mental framework."

Peabody Essex CEO Dan Monroe believes Asher's work will benefit the whole museum community, adding: "Dr Asher's unique perspective and deep insight will enable us to make the process of art exploration and discovery especially rewarding, stimulating and fun."

For more on neuroscience and museums, see the Q3 2019 edition of Attractions Management, available now.

<< Back

News powered by attractionsmanagement.com

Cultural Renewal Taskforce will re-energise leisure and recreation sector

Baroness Martha Lane-Fox, Sir Nicholas Serota and former BBC and ITV chief Lord Grade are among a new post-COVID-19 taskforce, aimed at getting the country’s leisure and recreation sector up and running again. [more...]

EU launches plan to refloat 'vibrant European tourism ecosystem'

The European Union has begun setting out measures to help member nations revive their tourism sectors, as national governments begin easing COVID-19 lockdown measures. [more...]

MPs write to chancellor demanding more support for tourism and hospitality

Nearly a hundred members of parliament (MP) have written a letter to chancellor Rishi Sunak, asking the government to "do more" to protect the UK tourism and hospitality industry. [more...]

Tourism Society emergency meeting addresses impact of delayed lockdown on tourism industry

The Tourism Society scheduled an emergency meeting on Wednesday 15 April to discuss breaking news relating to lockdown timings. [more...]

Tourism industry must lead and inspire, says Ken Robinson

Coronavirus is devastating for the tourism and leisure sectors globally. For now, the focus is on business ‘discontinuity’, the impact of the pandemic on our employees and their families, whether and how companies will survive and when the viable resumption of activity will be possible. [more...]

Longleat's Lord Bath dies from COVID-19

The attractions industry has lost one of its personalities with the passing of Lord Bath, the owner of Longleat Safari Park in the UK, who died on Saturday 4 April aged 87 after contracting the coronavirus. [more...]

In brief:

London Transport Museum goes digital (and gives special offers on its amazing socks @bernarddonoghue) @ltmuseum [more...]
Mary Rose Museum faces £2.2m funding shortfall as chief calls for increased independent museum support during COVID-19 crisis @MaryRoseMuseum [more...]
British Museum appoints Mary Beard to as trustee following government veto over EU stance [more...]
TEA launches TEA Digital to keep attractions industry connected throughout COVID-19 outbreak @TEA_Connect [more...]
UK's DCMS Committee to hear from charities over impact of COVID-19 outbreak @CommonsDCMS [more...]
Public comes to zoo's aid following call for animal food donations @TropiquariaA [more...]
BALPPA moves annual expo to November [more...]
A team led by Feilden Fowles (@FeildenFowles) has won the National Railway Museum's (@railwaymuseum) competition run with Malcolm Reading Consultants (@malcolmreading) to design its new Central Hall with an elegant timber-frame rotunda. [more...]
Google Arts & Culture offers virtual tours for more than 500 museums following closures @googlearts [more...]
More news from attractionsmanagement.com>>
<< Back