This is the first hierarchy in a series I developed out of my broader population work and my 2017 Annual Survey of Museum-Goers. Please see my introductory post on why I hate Maslow's hierarchy, and why I am using his model with very strong reservations.
To begin laying out the four hierarchies I have devised, I am starting with overall learning motivations (which affects museum-going, but isn't about museums necessarily).
To be honest, this first hierarchy, inspired by Maslow, is pretty straightforward. Especially since I have laid out these categories before, in a post on intrinsic and extrinsic motivations for learning.
Please note that one's motivation around learning is not an assessment of individual worth or character. That implication is what I truly hate about Maslow's hierarchy, and one I want to be VERY clear I am not implying. I am using this graphic because it is the most representative of the population. Additionally, there is typically an aggregating effect with individuals at the top of the pyramid building upon a foundation of attributes that appear lower on each pyramid. Just as in Maslow, that top-of-the-pyramid-group is also the smallest segment of the population. So this graphic is the most accurate I have been able to create, but I am very uncomfortable with the idea that anyone might walk away from it making value judgments about individuals based on where they fall. Don't do that.
Much of this hierarchy is based on capacity. That is, what are the external forces at play that can constrain learning? Especially discretionary learning (that is, not K-12 schooling or workplace training). Being an active learner takes time, energy, and financial resources to pursue. Not everyone has that.
But intrinsic motivation, as I've shared before, can come from a place of privilege. A place of being able to assume that the extrinsically-motivated payoffs of job, solid income, etc., will be there, thus allowing the intrinsic motivation to take precedent. This doesn't suggest that being affluent means having an intrinsic motivation, but if one is intrinsically motivated, it helps to be affluent enough to support that motivation.
I am loathe to judge anyone based on their learning motivation (which is one reason I don't like the hierarchical nature of Maslow, as it implies judgment). One's individual motivation to learn appears to be wrapped up in capacity, which is built on so many external, societal factors, that I've come to the idea that most of us are simply doing the best we can. Yes, I would love for that intrinsically motivated segment of the population to grow. We need it to grow for many reasons (which the other hierarchies I share will inform), and I believe museums play a significant role in growing it. But not in a vacuum. Society needs more than that, and individuals and families deserve those opportunities to grow.
A note about fielding research. I hold dear the idea that research for the field, about the field, should be shared with the field. But that only works when museums work together to make it possible. Since individual museums are needed to field this work, the survey also benefits participating museums on an individual level by providing benchmark data on visitation rates, motivations, attitudes and preferences, and demographic questions … all of which can then be tracked over time in the future. Participating museums are also allowed to add 1 - 2 custom questions specific to their needs.
Which means if you value this research, want more of it in the coming years, and want to track your own museum's progress over time, please support this work by enrolling your museum in the 2018 Annual Survey of Museum Goers. The fee for 2018 is only $1,000 per museum.
The questions for these surveys have been inspired by ongoing conversations within the museum field (who does/does not go to museums, why they do/do not visit, and what that means for communities) and ongoing research in the fields of education and psychology around lifelong learning and intrinsic motivation.
I respectfully acknowledge that I live and work on the traditional lands of the Duwamish people. I thank them for the care of this land, and I endeavor to help museums bring forward a more complete and inclusive history and culture in their work.