interactive museum
Mindworks: The Science of Thinking, © Pentagram, 2021

What feels real? What happens when details influence our decision-making? Who is prepared to take risks? When do our eyes deceive us? What should you order from a menu if everything looks good? What should you watch on Netflix if you’ve basically seen everything? It’s often difficult to decide. The exhibition “Mindworks: The Science of Thinking” aims to question visitors’ ideas about how rational they are when making decisions, while at the same time introducing them to insights from behavioural science.

Mindworks was designed and implemented by Giorgia Lupi, Abbott Miller and Luke Hayman, who are partners of the design studio Pentagram. It is the world’s first interactive museum and working lab dedicated to behavioural science and is run by the Center for Decision Research at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Since one of the key principles is “learning through doing”, explains Lupi, the designers opted for an analogue interactive experience over a screen experience. “Since these exhibits are tactile,” says Lupi, “the invitation to share responses is warm and more human.” Lupi designed a series of interactive experiments based on this idea, which allow visitors to try out concepts of behavioural science whilst also collecting data for researchers – thus killing two birds with one stone. Miller was responsible for the design system, whilst Hayman designed the visual identity.

Many of the experiments are based on concepts developed by Richard H. Thaler, a Nobel Prize-winning economist who coined the term “nudges”. “Nudging” refers to a method of influencing people’s behaviour without resorting to prohibition and commands or the need to change economic incentives. For example, putting fruit at eye level in a supermarket, rather than banning junk food. The exhibition refers to theories such as this and creates a playful atmosphere that encourages participation and reflection on one’s own goals and the stumbling blocks that hold us back. “Our approach to the space and materials,” explains Miller, “was to create a sense of a working laboratory that would be agile enough to change overnight, and would feel less precious and constantly evolving.”

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