Measuring the Effect of Visual Exposure and Saliency of Museum Exhibits on Visitors' Level of Contact and Engagement

Behav Sci (Basel). 2018 Oct 28;8(11):100. doi: 10.3390/bs8110100.


This paper examines visitors' movement patterns at the Broad Museum designed by Zaha Hadid. Characterized with free, open, and generally unbound spaces, visitors explore a curated exhibition at their own pace, route, and agenda. Unlike most other public environments, a museum lends visitors greater choice and control, and does not hold the social or spatial expectations of other facility types that might subject the visitor's path of travel. In this study, 72 visitors were observed. A space syntax-based visibility graph analysis (VGA) was then performed to compute the visibility exposure and the spatial position of each exhibit within the museum. Negative binomial regression was used to look at the effects of spatial variables on visitors' wayfinding, contact, and engagement with the pieces. Results showed that both the amount of visibility area around each exhibit, and its spatial position measured using space syntax techniques explained why visitors established a contact with the piece and their wayfinding behavior. Interestingly, however, the saliency of exhibits along with spatial variables were both strong predictors for why people arriving in groups split to engage with that particular exhibit. The simulation used in this study could be useful in curatorial decisions.

Keywords: exhibit spatial location; museum layout; space syntax; visibility graph analysis VGA; wayfinding.