During my semester studying abroad, I sought to establish two wishing trees at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Wishing trees are a type of interactive art installation where people can anonymously express their goals and dreams by writing them out on a tag and then tying the tag to the branch of a tree. These wishing trees would function as a contribution to both art and science. In terms of facilitating art, wishing trees are considered a type of guerilla art, which is artwork that is informally installed in public spaces. Furthermore, introducing wishing trees onto the city campus would beautify and draw attention to the trees themselves, as well as encourage participation from those who passed by. People could read the goals and dreams of strangers, reflect on their own wishes, and leave their personal revelations on a tag if they so desired. In terms of facilitating science, establishing two wishing trees would provide an opportunity to conduct a quasi-experiment that focuses on concepts in social psychology, such as injunctive norms and descriptive norms. Injunctive norms are the expectations of what ‘should be,’ of what one thinks they ought to be doing. On the other hand, descriptive norms are the perceptions of how people are actually acting, of what one thinks others are doing. I hoped to observe the influence of injunctive norms on behaviors of people on campus by posting a written notice that encourages participation in the wishing tree. Furthermore, individuals seeing the numerous tags on the branches that indicate wishing tree participation by others would experience descriptive norms by perceiving the actions of other people. The current study takes a different approach than the traditional research lab and utilizes wishing trees in a public space to attract participants. People were free to roam their typical college campus environment and behave naturally, unaware of how they might be affected by the subtly manipulated norms of the quasi-experiment. The fact that the study was conducted ‘in the real world’ gives it a high amount of external validity. In light of these factors, I wished to explore the potential of guerilla art installations for testing the impact of injunctive norms and descriptive norms outside of a lab environment.
Ashley Walter, Arcadia University
"Wishing Tree Project: Encouraging Growth in Guerilla Art Participation through a Quasi-Experiment,"
The Compass: Vol. 1
, Article 9.
Available at: https://scholarworks.arcadia.edu/thecompass/vol1/iss3/9