I have long felt that a lot of the research coming out of the neurosciences these days can inform our understanding of tourism and tourist behavior. I also know that a lot of that research is controversial with results that are probably overstated. With that caveat, though, I saw a recent article in ‘Science Daily’ that discussed research on how “what’s going on inside our head affects our senses. For example, poorer children think coins are larger than they are, and hungry people think pictures of food are brighter.” (Science Daily, 3 March 2012)
The research found that when words were flashed very fast on a screen (too fast to read, but slow enough to imprint on the brain), “Hungry people saw the food-related words as brighter and were better at identifying [the] food-related words” when shown on a list after they were flashed.
So what this research shows is that our perceptions increase toward items that our body wants or needs. How does this relate to tourism?
Tourism scholars have long pondered what motivates people to want to travel, and especially what motivates them to travel to certain types of destinations. Coastal and island destinations, for example, hold particular attraction as travel destinations for a broad spectrum of people. Culinary diversity, family kinships, ethnic and national identities, and architectural wonders are among the many other attraction types that we want to see and experience.
So if food hunger enhances our senses toward food, what does our selection of attractions tell us about what we are lacking, or hungry for, in our day to day lives? Because that is what is guiding our attention to travel magazine, tv shows and advertisements.
And while we are on a trip, what do the things we do, the photos we take (I will take several hundred photos of an interesting place), and the many other choices that we make say about our motivations and needs?
And finally, why are these so different from one person to the next?
These are the kinds of questions that get tourism researchers excited. … Wow, look at that!
This blog post is reposted at TG Tourism Place.