• Pointing out a feature, or making note of some concrete aspect or property of the exhibit, such as, “Check out the bump on his head,” or “That’s loud, huh?”

  • Quoting from a label, such as “Let’s see what it says. The difference between frogs and toads … toads live where it’s drier. Frogs live in wet places. There’s a toad in that tank, supposed to be.”

The results showed that perceptual talk occurs at 70 percent of the exhibit types, making it the type of conversation heard most frequently.

Conceptual Talk

This category covered simple inferences, such as a single interpretive statement or interpretation (“They eat mice,” someone said after seeing a jar containing a mouse in a display of frog food), and complex inferences, which refer to any generalizations about the exhibition or hypotheses about the relationship between objects or properties.

The Frogs tank, described in the beginning of the chapter, turned out to evoke complex inferences most frequently. In addition to searching for the 17 kinds of nocturnal marine toads living in the tank, visitors developed hypotheses for why the toads might not be visible. The following short conversation is an example of visitors’ thinking:

Visitor 1: Would they bury themselves?

Visitor 2: Perhaps, yeah, or they may really be camouflaged, too.

Visitor 1: Maybe it’s just showing where they live.

Visitor 2: Something must be under here because, see, the water is moving.

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