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Neuroscience gets into the mind of the museum visitor
POSTED 01 Oct 2019 . BY Andy Knaggs
Peabody Essex Museum's research has used technology such as gaze-tracking glasses and measurement of galvanic skin response Credit: Peabody Essex Museum
It requires some imagination and extrapolation about what a particular finding could mean in the context of an art exhibition
– Dr Tedi Asher
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.
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The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, is one step closer to a US$49m (€43.4m, £37.2m) facility expansion after the city’s Design Review Board approved the project unanimously.
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NEWS
Neuroscience gets into the mind of the museum visitor
POSTED 01 Oct 2019 . BY Andy Knaggs
Peabody Essex Museum's research has used technology such as gaze-tracking glasses and measurement of galvanic skin response Credit: Peabody Essex Museum
It requires some imagination and extrapolation about what a particular finding could mean in the context of an art exhibition
– Dr Tedi Asher
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.
RELATED STORIES
FEATURE: People profile: Tedi Asher


Bringing a neuroscience perspective to the visitor experience at PEM
Salem's Peabody Essex Museum breaks ground on landmark expansion


Ground has been broken on the US$49m (€43.4m, £37.2m) facility expansion of the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem, Massachusetts.
Design board approves US$49m expansion plans for Salem's Peabody Essex Museum


The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, is one step closer to a US$49m (€43.4m, £37.2m) facility expansion after the city’s Design Review Board approved the project unanimously.
MORE NEWS
Catherine Toolan to replace departing Paul Carty at Guinness Storehouse
Ireland's top attraction, the Guinness Storehouse, is to come under new leadership from April, with Catherine Toolan replacing Paul Carty as managing director.
Texas Kalahari Water Park scheduled for November 2020 opening
A new US$550m (€509m, £426m) African-themed water park and resort from Kalahari Resorts & Conventions is due to open in Round Rock, Texas, in November 2020.
Northern Ireland's The Gobbins in line for £11m development
Plans for an £11m (US$14.2m, €13m) extension to The Gobbins, a famous cliff-face path at Islandmagee, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, have made significant progress, according to the local borough council.
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Creating an "unforgettable first museum experience for children" is the aim of the V&A Museum of Childhood in London, which has announced it will close in May 2020 to undergo a two-year, £13m (US$16.9m, €15.7m) transformation.
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We are pleased to announce that Euro Attractions Show is now IAAPA Expo Europe. [more...]
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TOR Systems have been in this business since 1981. [more...]
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We create guest experiences others don’t, masterplan like no one else can, and give the world’s bi [more...]
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Red Raion is the CGI studio specialized in media based attraction. Find out more...
More videos:
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Trailer Peter Pan - Saving Tinkerbell VR – Red Raion
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+ More videos  

CATALOGUE GALLERY
+ More catalogues  
DIRECTORY
+ More directory  
DIARY

 

23-25 Mar 2020

MuseumNext Europe

Edinburgh Festival Hub, Edinburgh,
23-25 Mar 2020

Dubai Entertainment Amusement and Leisure Exhibition (DEAL)

Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
+ More diary  
 


ADVERTISE . CONTACT US

Leisure Media, Portmill House, Portmill Lane,
Hitchin, Hertfordshire SG5 1DJ Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385

©Cybertrek 2020

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