GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 3-9
Presentation Time: 10:25 AM


PIER, Jaleigh, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Cornell University, Cornell University, Snee Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853, DIETL, Gregory P., Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853; Paleontological Research Institution, 1259 Trumansburg Road, Ithaca, NY 14850 and SCHULDT, Jonathon P., Department of Communication, Cornell University, 450B Mann Library Building, Ithaca, NY 14853

Conservation paleobiology (CPB) is an emerging field of science that applies paleontological data and methods to prevent species extinction, restore habitats, and sustain the benefits people obtain from ecosystems. A current temporary exhibit (Conservation paleobiology: Putting the dead to work) at the Museum of the Earth in Ithaca, NY serves as an opportunity to investigate if an exhibit is an effective medium to communicate the science of CPB to a public audience.

We conducted a survey to assess “flow” in a visitor’s experience viewing the exhibit. When a ‘flow experience’ is reached, theory predicts an individual will be more likely to learn, absorb information, increase skills, and be motivated to explore an activity or topic, especially when extrinsic motivations are absent (Csikszentmihalyi and Hermanson 1995). The exhibit was designed around four elements required for a “flow experience”: 1) to capture an individual’s curiosity; 2) sensory, intellectual, and emotional opportunities for involvement with the material; 3) intrinsic rewards via developing skills and competence; and 4) growth of complexity in consciousness in which individuals want to maintain the flow experience.

We used the Flow Short Scale (FSS) (Rheinberg et al., 2003) to measure the ability of an individual to focus and retain information while viewing the exhibit. On a scale of 1-7, a middle score reflects that information presented was neither overly challenging nor boring and therefore allows for a “flow experience” to take place. Surveys were given to museum visitors either before (n=98) or after (n=91) they viewed the exhibit and results were compared to test the effectiveness of the exhibit in communicating the topic of CPB.

Preliminary results indicate about 32% of visitors who took the survey before viewing the exhibit were able to describe what CPB was. This doubled to 62% for visitors that took the survey after viewing the exhibit. Visitors that viewed the exhibit had a mean FSS score of 4.8 indicating the design and content of the exhibit was optimal for a “flow experience”, suggesting that visitors who interact with the exhibit will be more likely to absorb information about CPB and be motivated to explore this topic on their own.