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Psychology and Tourism - Group 8

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    Group 8: Sunna, Xinyu, Collins



    Psychology is the scientific study of behaviour and mind, Scientist have discussed many topics and subjects on psychology such as memory, free will, attraction, behaviour etc. psychology as a science also investigate the causes of behaviour using systematic and objective procedures for observations. Maslow(as cited in Holden, 2006) developed a theory and a model about the needs and wants of individuals which is the Maslow hierarchy of needs (Holden, 2005).

    Psychology is very broad because it also entails the study of human behaviour and how the human and the minds influence this human behaviour, psychology. Psychology covers all areas like knowledge, thought and how our emotion affect our everyday life  and it also investigate larger aggregate of individual such as societal, emotional, occupational and ethnic groups (Holden, 2005).

    Psychology plays a vital role in tourism today because psychology is about behaviour of humans and other organisms, and how they understand, act, perceive, feel and how to interact with people from various ethnic groups and background. Psychology is concerned with the laws of natural science, psychology leads us to tourism in different ways.Fodness (as cited in Holden, 2006) suggested that individual engage in the tourism to reduce their stress and anxiety.

    The schools of contemporary psychology are: Behaviourism, where the emphasis is on observing the behaviour, Cognitive, where the focus is on mental processes such as attention, language use, memory, perception, problem solving etc, Humanistic where the emphasis is on phenomenology, people see and view the world differently, Phychoanalyctic where the emphasis is on the role of the unconscious as an important aspect of the personality (Holden 2006).



    Motivation is a term used to describe behaviour. It represent the reasons for people‘s action, desires and needs. A motive is what encourages people to act in a particular way or to develop a pattern of specific behaviour (Holden, 2006), for example when someone eats a hamburger to satisfy their hunger. Motivation plays an important role in the tourism industry, without the desire and motivation to travel, there would be no people traveling. The motivation has been a key theme of psycological research, however there is a lack of an agreed common theory to explain the motivation (Holden 2006).

    To understand motivation better, phychologists have proposed several motivation theories. A brief overview of a few theories which have been created over the years will be explained, this includes: The instinct theory, drive-reduction theory and the Maslow model (Holden 2006).

    “The Instinct theory of motivations states that all activitesd, thought and desires are drawn from being caused by nature, our biological make-up. Human beings do things because they are evolutionary programmed to do so. Individuals have a programmed disposition at birth and genes are identified to motive people“ (The Psychology Notes Headquarter, 2016).

    William McDougall is one of the pioneer of instinct theories of motivation, he explained that the instincts are composed of 3 parts; perception, behaviour and emotion. MacDougall listed 17 instincts in 1932 including hunger, rejection of particular substances, curiosity, escape, sex etc (The Psychology Notes Headquarter, 2016).

    Drive-reduction theory was first developed by Clark Hull in 1943. The theory explained how the deviation from homeostasis create physiological needs and these needs result in the psychological drive state that direct to meet the need and ultimately bring the system back to homeostasis. When a physiological need is not satisfied, a negative state of tension is created; when the need is satisfied, the drive to satisfy the need is reduced and the organism returns to homeostis. The drive can be thought of as instinctual need that the power to motivate behaviour (Holden, 2005).

    The Moslow‘s hierarchy of needs was fully expressed in 1954 in the book Motivations and Personality. The model is often portrayed in the shapeof a pyramid with the largest and the most fundamental levels of needs at the bottom and the need for self-actualization at the top. The theory suggest that the most basic level of needs must be fulfilled before the individual will desire the secondary or higher level needs. These 5 types of needs are: The Physiological needs, they are the requirement for human survial, Safety needs are the personal and financial security, health and well-being, Love and belonging is the friendship, intimacy and family, esteem is the need to feel respected and the Self-actualization is the desire to become the most that one can be (Holden, 2005). Figure 1 is a pyramid with the most basic fundamental needs at the bottom and ranking up to the self-actualization, the need to become the most that one can be. 




    Figure 1. The Maslow‘s hierarchy of needs. Source: (Wikipedia, 2015)


    The Application of Motivational Theories To Tourism Studies

    Tourism motivation is the inner force to drive people away from home and to travel. People's social needs and curiosity is the inherent power of tourism behavior. Dann (as cited in Holden, 2005) argued that the two basic elements of a tourist's decision to a tourist destination are push and pull factors.

    Push and pull

    The push and pull theory is an effective method to study tourism motivation. In the theory, the activity of tourists are caused by push and pull factors. The push is generated by the inner psychological factor, and the pull is generated by the destination. The theory of push and pull combine the tourists and the destination. The theory is important  to improve the quality of products and the satisfaction of tourists.

    Dann (as cited in Holden, 2005) categoried 7 approaches to show how motivations works in tourism, they are:

    1.Travel as a response to what is lacking yet desired, people are often curious and eager to experience something new.

    2. Pull factor, Destinations have attractions such as beautiful environment, ancient history, culture and other interesting resources.

    3. Fantasy, Tourists want to escape from the daily life and to experience a new lifestyle.

    4. Classified purpose, such as leisure travel, business travel, visit relatives and friends.

    5. Motivational typologies, compare with tourists behavior and tourist roles

    6. Tourist experiences, Tourists previous experience encourage them to travel again.

    7. Auto-definition and meaning, emphasis is placed on how tourists define situations and particularly how the tourist sees the indigenous or local people (Holden, 2006).


    Optimal Arousal

    Arousal can be described as the degree of energy release and the intensity of readiness of the performer or as drive or excitation. In this theory, when the space of individual activity gradually shrinks, the level of awakening will arise. When the individual activity space is too small it will induce aggressive behavior. The level of arousal determines the behavior of individual factors. The general preference for the medium level of arousal, leading to the optimal arousal. Too high and too low will lead to bad performance (Cherry, 2016).

    Optimal arousal is an important motivation for leisure and tourism. Vacationers with a high need for arousal are more likely to seek out novelty whereas those with low arousal needs choose more predictable experiences (Cherry, 2016).


    The term ‘flow’ was explained by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Hungarian psychologist as "a subjective experience that is achieved where the challenges of a situation are matched by a person’s skills"(as cited in Holden 2006). This is also ananalogy of ‘optimal arousal’. He gives seven key aspects of the flow experience:

    1. in a impression that the personal skills and the challenges are a balance that bring by an activity,

    2. the center of attention,

    3. lose self-consciousness,

    4. an obvious evaluation of an active by a person,

    5. the feeling of having control over actions and environment,

    6. a loss of anxiety and constraint for a moment,

    7. feelings of happiness and pleasure.


    In Video 1 below Professor Csikszentmihalyi speaks about creativity, innovation and managing "Flow". 


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    Video 1, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Professor and Keynote Speaker on Creativity, Innovation & Managing "Flow" Source: Youtube, 2016


    Personality is a key determinant of behaviour that determine by psychologists, as important as motivation. But it‘s still hard to define this best-known topics in psychology field. Decrop (as cited in Holden, 2005) defines personality as “a reflection of a person’s enduring and unique characteristics that urge him or her to respond in persistent ways to recurring environmental stimuli.“ Altough there might be some argument about what personality really is, it‘s still a meaningful term in prediction of behaviour.

    Plog (as cited in Holden, 2005) used the personality theory to predict travel behavior. His works analyze the basic concepts of tourism with psychology and psychoanalysis, including research and trying to understand the inherent desire of tourists. For example, by selecting different types of destination to analyze the character of the tourist (Holden, 2005). Plog also argumented some social-characteristics such as social class, age and gender have less meaning of the prediction of leisure travel in the post modern society.




    Cherry, K. (2016). The Arousal Theory of Motivation. Health. Retrieved 27 January 2016, from

    Holden, A. (2005). Tourism Studies and the Social Sciences. London: Routledge, Print

    The Psychology Notes Headquarter. (2016). Instinct Theory of Motivation. Retrieved 27 January from

    YouTube,. (2016). Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Professor and Keynote Speaker on Creativity, Innovation & Managing "Flow". Retrieved 19 January 2016, from

    Wikipedia,. (2015). Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Retrieved 18 November 2015, from

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