A mindfulness/mindlessness model of the museum visitor experience

Moscardo, Gianna (1992) A mindfulness/mindlessness model of the museum visitor experience. PhD thesis, James Cook University of North Queensland.

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In the 19205 a Professor of Psychology at Yale University, Edward Robinson, and several of his graduate students conducted a major research programme in several museums investigating various aspects of visitor behaviour. These psychologists were concerned with both studying human attention and memory and with expanding the role of psychology in the improvement of public life. This programme ended in the 19305 and this applied area was not considered again until the 19705 when several psychologists, as well as researchers from the disciplines of education and museum management, began to publish studies of visitor behaviour. This more recent research focussed specifically on the design of exhibits and paid little attention to the development of psychological theory. The present thesis reports on a series of studies conducted in the earlier tradition of both extending psychological theory and providing knowledge for the better design of museum settings.

The thesis is based upon the concepts of mindfulness and mindlessness as used by Ellen Langer in explaining cognition in social situations. Mindfulness refers to the processing of information available in a setting and the use of this information in the creation of new schema and new routines of behaviour. The opposing cognitive state of mindlessness refers to the use of existing routines of behaviour to guide behaviour in settings and involves minimal processing of the information in the setting. Langer argues that much behaviour is enacted mindlessly. Further mindfulness is likely to occur in novel or unfamiliar situations, when a routine is disrupted by something unexpected, or when the situation is of importance to the individual. A model to describe the behaviour and cognition of museum visitors based on mindfulness/mindlessness was set out and a series of predictions with regard to visitor behaviour and cognition were described. These predictions were then used to guide a review of the existing visitor research. The results reported in this research were shown to be consistent with the Mindfulness Model.

A study was conducted with a sample of 348 individuals examining the emic descriptions of museum visits in an attempt to understand the scripts that museum visitors hold. This study examined frequency distributions and used crosstabulation analyses and mean difference tests to reveal that few visitors included in their descriptions any discussion of thinking, learning or processing information from exhibits. It was concluded that it was likely that many visitors quickly became mindless in museums and followed a simple routine of briefly glancing at exhibits as they moved through a museum. It was noted that this was consistent with observations of visitors in various museum settings.

The predictions of the Mindfulness Model were then tested in two Australian museums using both observation and survey techniques. The two settings were a display of communications technology, the Semaphore to Satellite exhibition at the Museum of Victoria, and the Gallipoli and Sinai and Palestine galleries of me Australian War Memorial. These settings provided a range of exhibits for study. A total of730 visitors were observed and 275 surveyed in the Semaphore to Satellite exhibition and 1460 visitors were observed and 360 surveyed in the Gallipoli and Sinai and Palestine galleries of the Australian War Memorial. The data was analysed using crosstabulation analyses, mean difference tests and discriminant analysis. In both cases the results supported the predictions derived from the Mindfulness Model. The studies conducted at the Australian War Memorial also found that exhibits which invoke an affective response from visitors were more likely than other exhibits to induce mindfulness. The results of both studies indicated that motivation was an important variable for mindfulness.

It was concluded that the Mindfulness/Mindlessness Model of Museum Visitor Behaviour and Cognition was supported by evidence collected in several settings. Potential applications of the model both within museums and in other settings were outlined.

The study reported in Chapter Three has been published in the Australian Psychologist (Moscardo. 1991a).

Item ID: 56976
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: museums, visitor experience, visitor expectations, visitor behaviour, cognition, psychology
Copyright Information: Copyright © 1992 Gianna Moscardo
Date Deposited: 29 Jan 2019 01:52
FoR Codes: 17 PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES > 1701 Psychology > 170199 Psychology not elsewhere classified @ 80%
15 COMMERCE, MANAGEMENT, TOURISM AND SERVICES > 1506 Tourism > 150606 Tourist Behaviour and Visitor Experience @ 20%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970117 Expanding Knowledge in Psychology and Cognitive Sciences @ 100%
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