Using Values-Based Focus Groups to Evaluate Visitors’ Perceptions and Interpretation of a Wildlife Exhibit

J. N. Sneddon, K. Hughes, R. Ballantyne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Zoos and aquariums consider themselves agents of environmental change, yet systematic efforts to evaluate how diverse audiences perceive individual exhibits and interpretive messages are rare. In response to a growing interest in understanding how visitors’ values (i.e. broad motivational life goals) influence their experiences and learning outcomes, this article examines whether visitors’ evaluations of a zoo exhibit reflect their value priorities. In an exploratory study of exhibit evaluation, 23 visitors were allocated to focus groups according to whether they prioritized self-transcendence, openness to change, or conservation values. Participants were then asked to identify elements of a target wildlife exhibit that would or would not motivate them to adopt conservation actions. While there were some commonalities, each values based focus group reacted to the target exhibit and interpretation differently and in ways that reflected the content of their shared value priorities. Suggestions for how this novel values-based approach to exhibit evaluation can be used to create messages and experiences that tap visitors’ value priorities are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100-120
Number of pages21
JournalVisitor Studies
Volume24
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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