Motivational Factors and the Visitor Experience: A Comparison of Three Sites



Museums, art galleries, botanical gardens, national parks, science centers, zoos, aquaria and historic sites are important public learning institutions. The free-choice learning offered in these settings is closely linked to visitors' intrinsic motivation, making it important to understand the motivational factors that impact on visitors' experiences. This paper presents data from a questionnaire administered to visitors at three sites: a museum, an art gallery, and an aquarium. Similarities and differences among the sites are reported in relation to visitors' expectations, perceptions of learning opportunities, engagement in motivated learning behaviors, and perceptions of the learning experience. The importance of learning to museum visitors and the unique opportunities and challenges of the museum in relation to other educational leisure settings are discussed. The authors argue that the study of motivational factors might contribute to the development of a common theoretical foundation for interpretation in museums and other informal learning settings.