Thursday, September 21, 2023

Addicted to Disneyland? You aren't the only one. [Something's rotten in the state of Denmark]

Daryl Austin, The scientific reason why you can’t stop going to Disneyland, Los Angeles Times, Sept. 19, 2023.

Travel craving:

Though research around “travel craving” is new and relatively sparse, behavioral psychologists and cognitive scientists believe a yearning for travel can fit the clinical understanding of craving as “a strong desire to modify ongoing cognitive experiences” in ways that don’t only relate to addictions.

Neuropsychologist Paul Nussbaum, an adjunct professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, explains that such cravings can be especially focused on getting specific outcomes from one’s vacation. “Our brain’s circuitry is wired to both desire things and to have our desires resolved temporarily with action,” he says. In other words, for people who describe their love of Disney travel this way, craving a trip to Disneyland may not only be a desire, but a yearning that continues to grow until satisfied.

It may be connected to smell:

Such yearnings are fed by any number of factors, of course, but smells are high on the list because of how they trigger memories and positive emotions. “The brain region critical to smell is located near the hippocampus, which is an important brain structure that helps us remember,” Nussbaum explains. “That is why the sensation of smell can trigger memories.” Indeed, multiple studies show how one’s sense of smell has a stronger link to memory and emotion than any of the other senses.

Disney seems to understand this as it has filled its parks with machines called Smellitzers — apparatuses carefully disguised or hidden away throughout attractions, shops and walkways, each pumping out soothing and familiar scents to passersby. In a 2017 interview, a 30-year Disney parks veteran said these machines release these familiar scents “on purpose” because the company is mindful that visitors “are using all their senses” when they’re there. But beyond simply releasing the smells, Disney also uses carefully timed systems and fans to ensure those scents reach the nostrils of guests. One Disney attraction patent notes that the ride’s Smellitzers’ “nozzles may be provided to direct scent materials into proximity to the fans so that appropriate scents may be directed to the passenger.” [...]

“Smell is a chemical sense, and it is evolutionarily ancient, so it connects more directly with the emotional parts of the brain than the other senses do,” explains David Ludden, a professor of psychology at Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville, Ga. “While some odors rise to the level of consciousness, many smells influence our behavior at an unconscious level,” he says, adding that Disneyland’s ability to evoke such unconscious emotions and connect with visitors so deeply is “a big part of Disney’s success.”

There's also peer influence and nostalgia.

More at the link.

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