Mindworks: The Science of Thinking

Mindworks: The Science of Thinking is the world’s first discovery center and working lab dedicated to behavioral science. Presented by the Center for Decision Research (CDR) at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, the space is a one-of-a-kind experience where people can learn more about how their minds work, and at the same time, contribute to groundbreaking science as participants. Our team at Pentagram developed a fun and engaging experience design for Mindworks that immerses visitors in an interactive exhibit space that both introduces the concepts behind behavioral science and produces quality research.

The project was developed in collaboration by three Pentagram partners: Giorgia Lupi and team created the experience design and interactive installations; Abbott Miller and team developed the exhibition design, display system and environmental graphics; and Luke Hayman and team designed the visual identity. The Pentagram designers worked closely with the CDR and KrueckSexton Partners to create a holistic environment that seamlessly combines the exhibits, research and data collection within one physical space.

Working with CDR, Pentagram developed a series of exhibits that translate the principles of behavioral science into dynamic hands-on experiences that capture decision making in process. The designers conducted workshops with faculty and staff to find the focus for a variety of installations that would reflect and inform the ongoing research by CDR. The team helped develop the Mindworks name and identified moments within the flow of the exhibition for individual modules centered on specific behavioral science principles.

Visitors are invited to participate in a series of interactive installations that explore the theories, concepts and factors behind the field through games, puzzles, infographics and other activities. The designers developed an infrastructure for asking questions that would result in valuable research data, and abstract concepts have been translated into physical data visualizations that help people learn through doing.

The experiments are fun and encourage a sense of play, but have scientific value for researchers as they collect data. The exhibits employ the principles of “data humanism”––using data to uncover the human stories behind the numbers and statistics, and to challenge the idea of data as something that is impersonal and intimidating. Built around the system of pegboard panels, the modular design can be easily updated with new exhibits and information.

The marquee exhibit is “Design Your Best Life,” an infographic mural explaining the ideas of Choice Architecture and Nudges. Visitors choose a colorful shape to answer each question, ultimately creating a layered data portrait that represents their goals and chosen techniques to remove any barriers from achieving them. The portrait is displayed on the wall alongside others leaving behind a data collection for researchers.

Another installation, “Are You a Risk Taker?,” asks visitors to consider how they would behave in imaginary scenarios that help illustrate Prospect Theory, a concept that explores the predictable errors that humans make because of the tendency to feel a loss more powerfully than an equal gain. Strings are used to mark responses in the pegboard to form a Prospect Theory matrix.

Other modules include “How Do Our Eyes Fool Us?,” with visual illusions that show how the mind takes shortcuts, and “What’s in a Face?,” which explores the power of first impressions in a unique photo booth that allows visitors to see their faces in a new way. The contemplative “Power of Regret” allows visitors to take a step back and reflect on the choices they’ve made and discover patterns in these decisions that may help them minimize regret.

Full project details︎

In collaboration with Giorgia Lupi, Kirsty Gundry, Lindsey Petersen, Michelle Brown, Ting Fang Cheng, Sarah Kay Miller, Phillip Cox, Shigeto Akiyama, Janny Ji, Katie Lovins, Abbott Miller, and Luke Haymond.