This hierarchy is the fourth 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.
My fourth and final hierarchy looks at outcomes. What are the typical outcomes of individuals who are at the apex (for lack of better word) of the other three hierarchies? Or the typical outcomes of individuals who are not motivated learners and/or may be focusing on self-sufficiency (as described in the hierarchy on "Capacity for Engagement")?
Well, roughly this final hierarchy. Those at the top of the other hierarchies tend to be at the top of this one … with higher income, health, and wellbeing. And those at the bottom of the other hierarchies tend to be at the bottom of this one too.
But there are caveats to start, of course. I am making broad generalizations, which is useful, but individuals can always differ. Someone can be at the apex on one of the hierarchies, but at the bottom of another. Or, someone can be at the bottom of all three of the hierarchies I have already shared, but at the apex of this outcomes one by, for example, the good fortune of birth into a very affluent family.
Additionally, as I have said before, this is not a judgment on anyone's individual worth. One can be at the apex of all of these hierarchies, and still be a horrible person; the opposite is true as well. External factors are so numerous, rooted in class and race, societal pressures and structures (for good and ill), and upbringing. It is wrong to make a judgment on a person doing the best they can, within constraints that may be out of their control.
And I believe museums have an obligation to do all they can to remove those constraints so that more people can attain these positive outcomes, increase their capacity to engage, be intrinsically motivated to learn, and enjoy our world.
OK, now let's get to what the data says. Looking across three major national studies (two broader population samples and my 2017 Annual Survey of Museum-Goers), I see patterns in the data that households with a learning mindset have better outcomes. That is, those who are proactive about learning, whether extrinsically or intrinsically motivated, do better. Most importantly, this holds true when educational attainment is controlled for.
That is, if we are to look at only those who have a college degree, those who do things like volunteer in their community, engage with the broader world, and proactively learn about that world through, for example, museum visitation, are more likely to be employed, have a significantly higher income, and have better long-term health outcomes.
The same is true if we only look at those without a college degree.
It isn't that going to museums creates this outcome. Let's make that clear. Additionally, I'm not, by any means, the first to have these types of findings; other researchers are finding similar patterns, attributing these types of life outcomes to arts engagement and proactive learning (see sources, below).
Instead, it is an affirmation that having a proactive learning mindset matters. It matters for cultural competency. It matters for inter-disciplinary and critical thinking skills. It matters for healthy communities. And it matters for socio-personal relationships. That's likely what makes these individuals more employable (and at a higher wage) as well as giving them more positive health and wellness outcomes.
And we can claim that museums are important tools used by many of those with a proactive learning mindset to get there. That matters.
Our challenge is that we don't have enough evidence to make a compelling case that we contribute more towards these outcomes than, say, Lumosity (which science says isn't a whole lot). If we are going to continue to matter to more individuals in the future, and to make it easier for more people to proactively pursue learning (and improve their life outcomes as well), we need that evidence to back up our assertions. Evidence that can lead to funding to broaden and deepen our impact.
Happily, more of that good work is happening, especially around health and wellness (see below). My work around the value of museums is a starting point for more significant work around learning motivations and the outcomes of a proactive learning mindset. I'll continue that work, and am hopeful others will do so as well since, as researchers, we all bring different skills and our own mindsets to the research table.
You can help as well. By joining my studies and/or those of others (more information below.) Because now more than ever, we need museums to open minds, develop connections, and strengthen communities.
For more on health and wellness outcomes and prosociality from arts engagement (an indicator of a learning mindset), see my reviews of:
Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing
The Arts as a Catalyst for Human Prosociality and Cooperation
The Social Wellbeing of New York City's Neighborhoods: The Contribution of Culture and the Arts
For more on having a learning mindset, see Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol S. Dweck.
*when educational attainment is controlled for
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.