An Exploratory Study of Zoo Visitors’ Exhibit Experiences and Reactions

June 6th, 2013 | RESEARCH

Visiting a zoo or aquarium is not only fun, but can also have a positive impact on visitors' knowledge and attitudes regarding animals and the environment. The biggest challenge, however, is for these institutions to strategically provide opportunities for cognitive and affective learning while simultaneously facilitating enjoyment and fun. Recent studies in zoos and aquaria have examined various factors that can influence learning such as engaging visitors' emotions or connecting with visitors' prior knowledge and interests. The intent of the current study was to further this line of investigation and explore the relationship between visitors' predispositions and their cognitive and affective experiences and reactions as they walked through an animal exhibit. We selected three indoor immersion exhibits and one outdoor naturalistic exhibit for the study to obtain a wide range of different animals and exhibit settings. Research assistants randomly intercepted visitors leaving the exhibits and asked, among other things, the extent they experienced certain thoughts and feelings while they were walking through the exhibits. Results revealed that visitors' emotional responses to viewing animals were key experiences along with opportunities for introspection and reflection during their time in the exhibits. Implications of the study are discussed in reference to providing both fun and meaningful learning experiences for visitors.


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Team Members

Jerry F. Luebke, Author, Chicago Zoological Society
Jennifer Matiasek, Author, Chicago Zoological Society


Identifier Type: doi
Identifier: 10.1002/zoo.21071

Publication: Zoo Biology
Volume: 32
Number: 4
Page(s): 407

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Audience: Evaluators | Families | General Public | Museum | ISE Professionals
Discipline: Education and learning science | Life science
Resource Type: Peer-reviewed article | Research Products
Environment Type: Aquarium and Zoo Exhibits | Exhibitions | Parks | Outdoor | Garden Exhibits