11 seconds – that’s the average time museum visitors spend looking at an exhibit. Not that long, is it? But here are some easy ways to prolong their attention.

Using eye-tracking technology, German visitor researcher Kira Eghbal Azar has analyzed how visitors look at objects when moving through an exhibition environment. While identifying 26 general eye movement patterns, she observed two movements, that reflected special interest - caused by specific installations.  

One is the "hanging object“. No matter if in open space or in a glass case, as soon as an object hovers, people tend to look at it from above and below, from right and left, from behind and ahead, again and again. It's almost as if the visitor is driven by the question, "how is that attached?". Whatever the motive, it works.

The other one is the "landmark“. If major objects are positioned in a way that they can be seen from a distance, visitors approach them straight away, without looking left or right. Their whole focus remains on the landmark object.

But what if your most interesting art works can’t be arranged in either way? The simple answer is: tell their story in an audio tour! Audio comments allow visitors to look at an object while listening to its information simultaneously. This increases the attention dramatically. In the radio interview quoted below, Mrs. Azar explains:

"In the 'old' days, digital media guides were seen as seducers which lead to "zombie-like“ behavior distracting the visitor from the exhibit. But I’ve found out that instead they lead to a more active examination and to a deeper cognitive digestion.“