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Cognitive psychology and tourism research: state of the art

Liubov Skavronskaya (Griffith Institute for Tourism, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia.)
Noel Scott (Griffith Institute for Tourism, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia.)
Brent Moyle (Griffith Institute for Tourism, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia.)
Dung Le (Griffith Institute for Tourism, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia.)
Arghavan Hadinejad (Griffith Institute for Tourism, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia.)
Rui Zhang (Griffith Institute for Tourism, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia.)
Sarah Gardiner (Griffith Institute for Tourism, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia.)
Alexandra Coghlan (Department of Tourism, Sport and Hotel Management, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia.)
Aishath Shakeela (Department of Tourism, Sport and Hotel Management, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia.)

Tourism Review

ISSN: 1660-5373

Publication date: 19 June 2017

Abstract

Purpose

This review aims to discuss concepts and theories from cognitive psychology, identifies tourism studies applying them and discusses key areas for future research. The paper aims to demonstrate the usefulness of cognitive psychology for understanding why tourists and particularly pleasure travellers demonstrate the behaviour they exhibit.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper reviews 165 papers from the cognitive psychology and literature regarding pleasure travel related to consciousness, mindfulness, flow, retrospection, prospection, attention, schema and memory, feelings and emotions. The papers are chosen to demonstrate the state of the art of the literature and provide guidance on how these concepts are vital for further research.

Findings

The paper demonstrates that research has favoured a behaviourist rather than cognitive approach to the study of hedonic travel. Cognitive psychology can help to understand the mental processes connecting perception of stimuli with behaviour. Numerous examples are provided: top-down and bottom-up attention processes help to understand advertising effectiveness, theories of consciousness and memory processes help to distinguish between lived and recalled experience, cognitive appraisal theory predicts the emotion elicited based on a small number of appraisal dimensions such as surprise and goals, knowledge of the mental organisation of autobiographical memory and schema support understanding of destination image formation and change and the effect of storytelling on decision-making, reconstructive bias in prospection or retrospection about a holiday inform the study of pleasurable experience. These findings indicate need for further cognitive psychology research in tourism generally and studies of holiday travel experiences.

Research limitations/implications

This review is limited to cognitive psychology and excludes psychoanalytic studies.

Practical implications

Cognitive psychology provides insight into key areas of practical importance. In general, the use of a cognitive approach allows further understanding of leisure tourists’ behaviour. The concept of attention is vital to understand destination advertising effectiveness, biases in memory process help to understand visitor satisfaction and experience design and so on. Use of cognitive psychology theory will lead to better practical outcomes for tourists seeking pleasurable experiences and destination managers.

Originality value

This is the first review that examines the application of concepts from cognitive psychology to the study of leisure tourism in particular. The concepts studied are also applicable to study of travellers generally.

Keywords

Citation

Skavronskaya, L., Scott, N., Moyle, B., Le, D., Hadinejad, A., Zhang, R., Gardiner, S., Coghlan, A. and Shakeela, A. (2017), "Cognitive psychology and tourism research: state of the art", Tourism Review, Vol. 72 No. 2, pp. 221-237. https://doi.org/10.1108/TR-03-2017-0041

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited