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Psychology and Tourism – Group 10

    Apart from sociology which is the science of the society, psychology rather focuses on the study of individual behavior, experience and relationship (Šimková, 2014). Referring to Davidoff, “the word psychology is derived from the Greek word meaning ‘study of the mind or soul’” (as cited in Holden, 2005, p. 61). Various studies of psychology can be dated back to the life of the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384 – 322 BC)who aimed to analyze and understand the human behavior. Further research and the early beginnings of modern psychology can be ascribed to the philosopher and physicists Gustav Fletcher (1801-1887) who focused his research on mental processes. Up to the research and studies by Fletcher, psychology was generally seen as a part of philosophy (Holden, 2005).

    When it comes to tourism, psychology is used to describe and understand the behavior, the attitudes and the motivations of an individual. The individual in case of tourism can be regarded as the tourist. Referring to Šimková (2014) “tourist’s behavior is based on social, emotional, motivation and cognitive aspects, which opens wide space for psychological monitoring” (p. 318). The beginnings of contemporary psychology can even be connected to tourism, as researchers started to observe the behavior of visitors in various attractions and places (Holden, 2005). According to Šimková (2014), psychology is mainly concerned with human thinking and the processing of information that are needed in order to do tourism research. These studies and research approaches focus on the tourist’s decision-making process, tourists expectations, motivations and as well as their experiences. Especially the aspect of motivators may play a crucial role within the decision-making process as the decision upon the destination or the type of tourism is depended on the various motivations of tourists.


    Following Parrinello thoughts on motivation in tourism, it is said that, obviously motivation has a lot of importance in tourism (as cited in Holden, 2005, p. 62). It influences all the events to become involved in travel. It is undeniable that tourism system or tourism industry would not exist without the desire and motivation to travel.

    Although this motivation theory has not been well researched, one group of scientists ‘realists’ states that behavior of human is reaching out for pain avoidance and pleasure seeking. This notion is known as ‘hedonism’ (as cited in Holden, 2005). Alternatively, the other group ‘rationalists’ says that there are reasons why people do one or another thing and it makes them responsible for their own actions, so the concept of motivation is not needed (Holden, 2005). On the other hand, other psychologists’ attempts to understand motivation were based upon instinct theory. According to Atkinson “ten inherited instincts control our behavior: acquisition, curiosity, flight, gregariousness, pugnacity, reproduction, repulsion, self-abasement and self-assertion (as cited in Holden, 2005, p. 63). The theory proposes that these instincts basically form everything what people do, feel and think. Due to this explanation ‘tourism instinct’ could be named as one of them and used to explain participation in tourism. However, the most famous psychologist, Sigmund Freud thought that all human behavior is driven by two basic instincts: death instinct and life instinct Nevertheless, this point of view would hardly explain tourism motivation theory (Holden, 2005).

    One more theory by Atkinson trying to explain the motivation factor is ‘drive-reduction theory’. It says that drive appears as a result of arousal from some biological needs. This theory states that any psychological imbalance motivates behavior to bring back equilibrium (as cited in Holden, 2005). Another theory by Fodness is called ‘functional approach’, which appears because of resulting tension that encourages an individual to find a way to release the state of anxiety and as a result it could be participation in tourism. What is more, the theory of ‘expectancy-valence’ states that the direction and intensity of behavior depends on the aims and results that can be achieved through an object, such as tourism (Holden, 2005).

    And the most relevant theory of motivation to tourism was created by Maslow in 1954. He formed a hierarchy of motives which is named as ‘hierarchy of needs’. It is closely connected with physiological needs as well as with psychological needs. In addition, it also involves wider environmental and social factors. Maslow emphasizes five categories of needs: physiological, safety, love or relationship, esteem and self-actualization (Holden, 2005).

    Maslow’s hierarchy pyramid:

    Level 1 – gastronomy ­– it is required to provide a variety and quality local gastronomy; accommodation – quality guaranties that tourist’s health is not endangered (Šimková, 2013).

    Level 2 – safety – it has to represent the location in the best way possible, to convince a tourist of non-existent pathological characters (such as crime, theft, alcohol abuse, vandalism etc.) (Šimková, 2013).

    Level 3 – social needs – a need to belong to a group of people, most likely local people. It is also related to belonging to a particular residential community, local traditions, habits and customs. Mostly this feeling appears when people plan special occasions to in these kind of places: spending holidays/celebrating something with family, friends, beloved ones, visiting someone important abroad, going to international event etc. (Šimková, 2013).

    Level 4 – self-appreciation – a phenomenon describing to client’s satisfaction of supplier’s/provider’s tourism service/product quality. It is also important to sustain client’s loyalty to a certain product, service, or the service provider. Later this feeling triggers a self-realization if experience was positive (Šimková, 2013).

    Level 5 – self-realization – a phenomenon dependent on tourism locality, structure and quality of service. For psychology it is very important to participate in the process of creating tourist holiday experience perfect because it is all about his needs and desires (Šimková, 2013).

    The application of motivational theories to tourism studies

    There is no common approach to understand the tourism motivation factor. Due to this reason there are several scientists with their different and at the same time similar theories to tourism motivation. In Holden course book (2005) one of those theories would be connected to ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors by Dann. Crampton agreed on this theory and so he took it and transformed it a bit differently, relating to his own point of view. His survey results revealed the following seven socio-psychological variables, motivation factors that have an impact on making people travelling: 1) escape from the mundane; 2) exploration and evaluation of self; 3) relaxation; 4) prestige; 5) regression to childhood; 6) bonding with family and friends; 7) social interaction (as cited in Holden, 2005). Another theory by Iso-Ahola states that optimal arousal is responsible for leisure motivation. It creates the balance between our interactive environment and psychological equilibrium. The following theory of ‘flow’ described by Csikszentmihalyi has a similar concept of the previous one. ‘Flow’ theory has been explained as an individual experience that is obtained when dares of a situation are matched by a person’s skills. One more but the other kind of understanding of tourism motivation theory is perceived by Isola-Ahola, this time he talks about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. He states that people are extrinsically motivated when they are performing an activity to obtain a reward that is external to the activity. On the opposite side are intrinsically motivated people, who are this way when no apparent extrinsic reward is present (as cited in Holden, 2005).


    Aside from motivation, personality is also another key aspect for many psychologists and may also be best associated with psychology. Decrop cited in Holden (2005) begins to define personality as “a reflection of a person’s enduring and unique characteristics that urge a person to respond in persistent ways.” This could suggest that the object that determines a person to do something reflects onto the personality they will respond back. Personality can also be defined as “the characteristics or blend of characteristics that make a person unique” (Weinberg & Gould, 1999 cited in McLeod, 2014, p. 58). This is a more defined definition as it shows how each individual have a different personality and it cannot be ‘grouped’ as each person is unique.

    The personality of a person is what draws the individual to choose which destination and also the type of destination for vacation. According to Plog cited in Holden, (2005) there is a relationship established between the type of traveller and how a destination develops from popularity. This is related to personality characteristics as through the concept of ‘word of mouth’ an individual’s experience in a destination is expressed to others and determining the popularity in the destination. This can also be related to as destination development as the personality of an individual wanting to go to the destination determines the ‘life of the destination’ also known as the tourism area life cycle shown in the following link;

    Attitudes and Environmental Psychology

    When attempting to understand tourist behavior, the attitudes taken by tourist to the environment of a location are probably influencing the activities they decide to do there (Holden, 2005). Trying to define what an attitude is, Dibb et al. (as cited in Holden, 2005, p. 75) says: “Attitude refers to knowledge and positive or negative feelings about an object or activity. The objects or acts towards which we have attitudes may be tangible or intangible, living or non-living”. Attitudes have three components: the cognitive, the affective and the behavioral. The cognitive part is about perceptions or beliefs. The affective response talks about the feelings or emotions generated by the object and the behavioral response are connected to the behavioral intention, based on the cognitive and affective responses (Malim et al.,cited in Holden, 2005). Attitudes are vaguely permanent sets of evaluations. These we bring with us wherever we go and who affect how we interpret people and objects. This makes us more predictable in our responses than, we perhaps, otherwise would be. Nevertheless, this does not signify that they cannot be challenged or changed (Holden, 2005).

    Environmental psychology is linked to the attitudes that tourists have to a destination. To understand tourism, and how tourists notice and experience foreign environments Ittleson et al. (cited in Holden, 2005) illustrated five different modes of interaction that we could have in experiencing our physical environment, representing different feelings about our surroundings. Nonetheless, these modes are not exclusive; it all depends on the viewer, the experiencer. Depending on how we see a specific environment it is possible that it determines how we interact with it as tourists (Holden, 2005). Furthermore, a third type of interaction is the viewing of the environment as a ‘social system’. Focus is put on the use of the environment as a social setting and creating and support social relationships (Holden, 2005). Moreover we have a forth type of experience of the environment called ‘emotional territory’. This means that we can experience the environment through emotions, usually in a positive way. One example could be that of a childhood memory, later revisited with one’s own children, continuing the emotional link between place and person through generations. At the very extreme, the emotional attachment to a place and/or an environment can become mixed with a person’s own identity and that way being seen as unable to be parted.

    Visitor Experience

    The visitor experience is a large aspect as destinations or tourism attractions want to draw tourists to return and also want the visitor to leave with an experience they may have imagined. The psychological theories are being used to enhance the visitor experience, such as helping the visitor navigate around a site or providing more information. (Holden, 2005) The visitor experience can also be helped through environmental setting, also known as environmental psychology. Ross cited in (Holden, 2005) suggests that the environmental setting is interoperated through communication. The tourist attractions and destination need to take into consideration the individuals minds, as they will be paying attention to what is around them and might not want someone continually speaking to them continuously.   

    The experience a visitor may undertake will also relate to the ‘personality’ of the individual, therefore tourist destinations need to take each individual in a different manner. This suggests that tourist destinations need to enrich the visitor experience from the moment they enter the premises to when they leave. Furthermore, this will allow the visitor to not necessarily experience just the attraction but also customer service.




    Holden, A. (2005). Tourism Studies and the Social Sciences. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

    Šimková, E. (2014). Psychology and its application in tourism. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 114, 317 – 321.

    McLeod, S. (2014). Theories of Personality. Retrieved November 5, 2015, from,


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