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Psychology and Tourism - Group 6

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    Psychology and Tourism

    Cécile Guermann, Fanny Tschofen, Farzaneh Tavajohi Hassan Kiadeh & Hanah Zavahir


    Psychology is the study of an individual’s mentality which focuses on behavior and mental processes to provide a comprehension and understanding of human behavior. Psychology attempts to understand the motivation, personality, attitudes and environment of an individual. In tourism, psychology is used to understand the motivations driving people to become tourists. Psychology also studies the needs relating to tourism at a destination for an individual because they are changing with their age, life circle and past tourist experiences. The studies try also to predict tourist behaviour by exploring the personalities of tourists and by seeing how tourists interact with the environment around them.


    Motivation theory

    To understand why people travel is the primordial point, psychology study the travellers’ motivation. Indeed, understanding why people travel can minimise leakages and allow a bigger tourists’ satisfaction (mettre une ref). According to Parrinello (1993, cited in Holden, 2005), the motivation in tourism is one of the most important thing. Indeed, without motivation to travel, there would be no tourism. Psychology schools study many sectors like behaviourism, cognitive, humanistic and psychoanalytic (Holden, 2005). No psychological theory is established for the moment because of the absence of universal agreement upon conceptualisation of the tourist motivation construct (Pearce, 1993, cited in Holden, 2005). Psychology is not a physical thing we can not touch it, it is why it is difficult to agree; everyone has their own opinion. The study of the motivation with a psychological approach started in the beginning of the twentieth century and there are different approaches upon the subject. In one side, the ‘rationalists’, they believed that pain avoidance and pleasure seeking directed human behaviour, it is also known as the concept of ‘hedonism’. In the other side, there are the ‘rationalists’, to them the concept of motivation seems unnecessary because they believe that it is the own actions of people who push them to travel (Holden, 2005).


    According to Atkinson et al. (1983, cited in Holden, 2005) psychologists based the motivation upon the instinct theory. It is when the instincts of an individual controls their behaviour. Some psychologists found this theory was too short. What exactly is an ‘instinct?’ It depends on each person, the definition is too vague (Holden, 2005). Another theory that was applied is the ‘drive-reduction’ theory, it was popular during the 1920s. Defined by Atkinson et al. (1983, cited in Holden, 2005), this theory is based upon essential needs including: food, shelter and sex, and these needs influence the motivation. After 1950, psychologists included the concept of externals factors upon human behaviour. All individual decisions are based not only on the instinct but also on external stimuli (Holden, 2005). There are a lot of theories that need to be confirmed, but as stated before, psychology in tourism is reasonably new, and very subjective, and at the moment people have very different opinions.


    The Application of Motivational Theories to Tourism Studies

    In reality, there are two categories of tourist motivations can be observed (Holden, 2005). The first one is people influenced by ‘extrinsic’ motivations. This type of motivation comes from outside yourself, from, for example, winning trophies, medals - as a reward. The second one is people influenced by ‘intrinsic’ motivations, this is when you do something only for yourself, without any external aspects influencing you. For example, going for a run because it makes you feel better, not because it will benefit anything or anyone else (


    Travel Career

    Travel career is another theory which is considerable and describes that people are working while experiencing tourism as well as in their workplace. It argues that a tourism career is significantly desired and also follows a specific aim. Even though taking part in tourism is usually out of choice, one’s travel career has a tendency to be mostly due to the intrinsic pushes instead of extrinsic ones. The main concept of the theory argues that the factors which make people tourists differ in different stages of life related to the age and also previous experiences as tourists (Pearce, 1998 cited in Holden, 2005).


    The results of examining the theory puts the five types of needs in the case of tourism; ‘relaxation’ is the first group of the ‘leisure ladder’ where the tourist is just looking for his basic needs in a place that makes the feeling of being free of all the responsibilities and escapism. People in the ‘stimulation’ group are often interested in fun, unusual and unordinary activities, open to try new things and are concerned with controlling their arousal levels. The members of the ‘relationship’ group are keen on interacting with others and joint activities and try to make good shared memories. The ‘self-esteem and development’ group includes people who are working and concentrated on their skills and talents, seeking to improve and be productive respected. ‘Fulfilment’, which is the last stage of the ladder, belongs to the people who are more focused on living in peace and joy and spirituality (Holden, 2005). There is some criticism over this category, since the categorised tourist’s behavior is not this simple. But still this theory brought a vision which clears that the several factors influencing the motivation in tourism change according to the age and different stages of life and this makes planner makers to concentrate to evaluate the tourism needs (Holden, 2005).



    Personality is another effective factor in behavior and is the most popular topic related to psychology. There is no exact and complete definition for it (Holden, 2005). It can be defined as the reaction of the individual in difficulties and  his particular merits which changes him to be firm on his approach to repeat the environmental boosts and catalysts (Decrop, 1999 cited in Holden, 2005). However,  there is no exact agreement as to what personality is, but the theories are still beneficial for anticipating the behavior (Ross, 1998 cited in Holden, 2005). The personality theory as a means of predicting has been examined by the psychographic research which lets the researcher feel exactly what tourist feels and get the reasons for choosing different destinations (Plog, 1994 cited in Holden, 2005). It illustrates that the characteristics such as social class, age, and gender which are called socio-demographic characteristics are becoming less useful in the case of forecasting and anticipating leisure and tourism behavior in postmodern societies (Holden, 2005). Since the type of trips or activities which belonged just to the population who had the power are involving more people from different groups and classes of society (Holden, 2005). The method categorises typologies of tourists ranging from the term ‘psychocentrics’ to ‘allocentrics.’ It shows that ‘psychocentrics’ are mostly self-inhibited, anxious and not interested in adventure, while ‘allocentrics’ tend to be more confident and keen on variety and adventure and new destinations have often been discovered by this type since they are keen on interaction by sharing their experiences they make the destination well-known and afterwards becomes the host of the ‘near-allocentric’ group which are higher in quantity compared to ‘allocentrics’ and their attention and attraction pushes the developed facilities appear in the destinations. The spreading of the popularity of the destination attracts the ‘mid-centric’ group and the whole process results in development into the mature stage (Holden, 2005). High rates in population belong to the ‘mid-centric’ group who usually carry dominant characteristics (Plog, 1973 cited in Holden, 2005). It shows that the different types choose different destinations which are suitable for their personalities. There has been also an established connection between the typology of the tourists and the way that destinations develop and change during which the ‘allocentrics’ in the path of their adventure would come to check the destination that they have discovered once but this time they find it too far from the nature that it was once (Holden, 2005). At this time the destination is being overused that it reached its maximum potential. Following the process the destinations changes to a suitable place for psychocentric (Plog, 1973 cited in Holden, 2005).



    Holden (2005) states that attitudes from the tourist in a destination can influence the types of activities they may choose to participate in. “Attitude refers to the 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” (Dibb et al. 1994: 115, cited in Holden, 2005).

    Attitudes can be divided into three components:

    • the cognitive which concerns perceptions or beliefs,

    • the affective which involves feelings or emotions generated by an object,

    • the behavioural (or conative response) which is linked to behaviour intention (based on cognitive and affective responses).


    According to Holden (2005), attitudes suggest a cognitive dimension for the information process. Tourist perception is described by Decrop (1999, cited in Holden, 2005) as a process which translates tourist information from an ‘external world’ to an ‘internal’ (or mental) one.

    To go further, attitudes are permanent sets of evaluations that affect how people see and interpret what is around them. Attitudes make them more predictable in their responses and acts, but it can change or be changed because attitudes are based upon a cognitive component so people can assimilate new information and this can influence the affective and behavioural parts of the attitudes.  This is used in tourism marketing: the informations are presented in a way that makes people re-think about the unfavourable cognitions or beliefs about a destination. This is also used for tourist behavior (negative impacts) and for minority groups in society (racism and homophobia) (Holden, 2005)


    Environmental psychology

    Environmental psychology is studying more comprehensively and deeper the perceived and experienced foreign environments by the tourists at a destination. According to Ittleson et al. (1976, cited in Holden, 2005), five modes of interaction can be experienced by tourists in the environment:

    • external: little attachment to the surroundings, nature and environment seen as separated from tourists;

    • setting for action: the environment is seen useful because tourists can have activities depending on it;

    • social system: tourists see environment as a way to strengthen the relationships with their family and friends;

    • emotional territory: places that tourists have already seen and remind them some emotions; and

    • self: environment is a part of the person’s personality. He/she spends all his/her free time visiting the place.

    In addition, some of these modes of interaction can be experienced at the same time. Holden (2005) insists on the fact that it is how someone sees an environment that determines how this person will interact with it. The more tourist sees the environment as “self”, the more he/she will take care of and protect it.


    The Visitor Experience

    The visitor experience is a factor in which relates to the attitudes and environmental psychology. Psychological theories are applied in order to augment the visitor’s experience. Factors used in order to achieve this may include providing the visitor with a service which may make their time at the destination easier, and implement environmental interpretation of what they see (Holden, 2005).


    Cognitive maps are a representation of how humans and animals find their way around, mentally ( 08/11/15). This is because they help you to determine and remember the most unique or distinct features or monuments in a foreign area and this is called the ‘anchor point’ theory (Holden, 2005).

    Holden (2005) states that there has been a lack  of research conducted on cognitive mapping, but potential research in this area could help to understand how a person mentally absorbs something that is new or previously unknown to them. Understanding how the human mind works would be extremely useful in this case because it can help to determine what could be done to benefit the visitor and also the destination.


    Moscardo (1999) noticed that a large amount of people who use maps tend not to follow compass points or directions, and therefore it has been found that maps that present big landmarks and features may be found more useful and easy to follow than a traditional map due to the way people subconsciously think (cited in Holden. 2005). This is an example of the ‘anchor point’ theory.


    Another observation by Moscardo (1999) found that another factor that could help to intensify the visitor’s experience is understanding the environment. This can be done through communication (Ross, 1998 cited in Holden, 2005). ‘Mindfulness’ is an important part of this as it relates to how we pay attention to our surroundings, and often if when you are open to gaining a better understanding of the environment itself.

    Mindfulness could be encouraged by:

    • unfamiliar settings;

    • changed and varying situations;

    • preference and authority; and

    • relevance to the individual

    Mindfulness is an important factor of the discipline of psychology as determines how the visitor sees the destination (Moscardo, 1999 cited in Holden, 2005).



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