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The British are a nation in denial when it comes to choosing their holiday, reveals the results of a ground-breaking neuroscientific study published today.

According to Thomson Holiday’s Psychology of Travel study, the first of its kind undertaken for the UK travel industry, the popular stereotype of the British abroad being sun-burned, yearning for a beer and a wild night out, and ignorant of local culture, should be consigned to holiday history.

Instead the study conducted at the University of Sussex, points to a chilled out traveller interested in historical sites, relaxation and a desire to absorb local customs. Scientific proof that the British holidaymaker is evolving.

The research into human brains using Electroencephalography (EEG) tests*, (which measure electrical activity in the brain when stimulated with images of various holiday scenarios), was overwhelmingly conclusive, with 100% of the people tested unwittingly in denial about what really constitutes their ideal holiday.

British men are particularly prone to exaggerate but since the brain CANNOT lie, it would seem they have more in common with Stephen Fry than a fry-up, increasingly becoming “Culture Vultures” as opposed to “Beach Bunnies”. And consequently, British women now seem to be the more adventurous.

The study has identified many other surprising contradictions, not least the fact that overly-active holidays that were once the domain of younger “thrill seekers” are now actually more popular with older age groups. Younger holidaymakers are actually more interested in visiting historical sites, local culture or just reading a good book in bed. The study suggests that “Chill seekers” might now be a better way to describe them.

The experiment is backed up by research results conducted among 1000 UK adults** who have recently holidayed abroad, with a staggering 93% revealing their main motivation for going on holiday is to experience somewhere new, and nine out of ten wanting to immerse themselves in the local culture, rather than a local brew.

85% seek out authentic local restaurants rather than sticking to familiar foods enjoyed at home and more than two-thirds of people (69%) enjoy spending a day visiting a museum or an architectural site of interest (68%).

However, on balance we also want to relax and enjoy the simple pleasures we don’t have time for at home – 81% enjoy reading a good book and 79% like to relax with a glass of wine, whilst 41% want to do nothing more than watch a DVD.

Christian Cull, Thomson Holidays’ Director comments: “For something as fundamental as a holiday to be so full of apparent contradiction is psychologically fascinating. By understanding these contradictions more fully we can better understand which holidays are truly the right holidays for different individuals.”

Dr Jack Lewis, the consultant neuroscientist who designed the experiment confirms this:

“People’s ‘re-tell value’ often subjectively outweigh their inner most desires when it comes to holiday adventures. While people may say they want high octane adventures, most people want the option, but will never take it. What they really want is something far more relaxing – more akin to what they wish they had time to do at home.”

The four types of personalities tested (of which we all fall into one) highlighted the fact that one’s persona does not align with what we really want from a holiday:

Laid back extroverts, Prince Harry or Sarah Harding types – Free spirited souls who are very energetic, confident and outgoing. According to Dr Lewis: “We would think they would be the life and soul of the party, stimulated most by hedonistic adventures, yet the EEG results showed that this group was most strongly engaged by fairly safe, solitary holiday activities including visiting an art gallery, walking in a park and relaxing by the pool.”

Anxious extroverts, Chris Evans or Cheryl Cole types – Positively engaged with their environments, but tend to experience negative moods states and often feel anxious. Dr Lewis says, “Although extroverts would have us believe that they seek thrills, this group is most engaged by fairly safe, moderate and solitary activities such as reading by the pool, and least engaged by highly adventurous pursuits.”

Laid back introverts, Kate Middleton or David Beckham types – Not very outgoing or energetic, but quietly confident in their abilities. According to Dr Lewis: “While we might describe these people as ‘toe-dippers’ in everyday life, the EEG study showed the most surprising results. These people really are our ‘thrill seekers’ and are the most engaged by adventurous activities, such as scuba-diving, wild horse-riding and white water rafting and least engaged by quiet, solitary activities.”

Anxious Introverts, Kylie Minogue or Colin Montgomerie types – Placid characters, who tend to avoid social situations and are quite sensitive. Dr Lewis comments: “We tend to think they would be shy and retiring, but the EEG results show them to be the most sociable and gregarious when on holiday enjoying entertainment and group activities such as jazz bars and a jungle cruise. This group needs to keep busy.”

Christian Cull continues: “The report shines a completely new light on British holidaymakers demonstrating that many of the stereotypes relating to Brits abroad are outdated or just plain wrong. We are already using this data to develop new resorts as the British traveller continues to evolve and we provide holidays down to a T.

“Our current offerings such as Sensatori, Couples and Family Resorts already provide the perfect environment not only for what people may say they want, but what we know they truly desire – flexibility, a combination of exciting choices of activities and cuisine, with the security of five star luxury and comfort.”

Thanks to this study, holidaymakers will now be able to determine what they really want and what holiday may best suit them at the Thomson Holidays website. A personality test, similar to that used for the experiment can confirm which of the four groups they belong to will be online at


Notes to editors

*The Psychology of Travel Electroencephalography (EEG) was carried out for Thomson Holidays at the Mindlab International laboratory at the Sussex Innovation Centre, University of Sussex in Brighton. The study was conducted 6th – 10th December 2010 with 32 participants. Further analysis and commentary was provided by neuroscientist, Jack Lewis (PhD).

**The Psychology of Travel quantitative survey quoted within this study was a bespoke online survey, with fieldwork carried out by Research Now over the survey period 25 November 2010 -7 December 2010. The sample size was 1004 individuals - all adults 18+ and living in the UK who had travelled abroad in the last 2 years (since January 2009). The sample was quota’d on gender, age, socio-economic group, regionality and marital status to ensure it was representative of all adults 18+ who travel abroad. All Psychology of Travel survey data stated in this report is weighted data in line with the quota profile detailed above.

For more press information, please contact Grace Jones on or call 01582 648 725.

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