Disney Adults Win This Round: Science Backs Disney World “Addiction”

disney adult disney world
Credit: Disney

Disney adults often get a lot of flack for their love for everything Disney—be that Disney’s theme parks or Disney movies and merch. However, recent findings from researchers prove that science backs the so-called “Disney addiction.”

Any Disney fan would agree that any Disney Park, anywhere in the world, is an incredible place to enjoy the Disney experience. Whether it’s going to the Walt Disney World Resort or the Disneyland Resort, from the myriad attractions like Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom Park or Disneyland Park, and lands like Pandora in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, there’s a lot to enjoy.

"Partners" statue in front of Cinderella Castle, Magic Kingdom Park, Walt Disney World Resort

“Partners” statue in front of Cinderella Castle, Magic Kingdom Park, Walt Disney World Resort / Credit: Disney

As reported by The LA Times, the so-called “Disney addiction” can be boiled down to four main driving factors: “travel craving,” “the sense of smell,” “feeding peer influence,” and finally, “nostalgia.”

While so many of us love the Disney theme parks and crave going back to them so much, it’s not well-known that this effect is engineered in no small part by the Walt Disney Company.

Travel Craving

When it comes to the concept of “travel craving,” the LA Times explains that the concept is relatively new and still being studied. However, “behavioral psychologists and cognitive scientists believe a yearning for travel can fit the clinical understanding of craving as ’a strong desire to modify ongoing cognitive experiences.’”

So, in the case of Walt Disney World and a Disney vacation, for those who experience “travel craving,” going to the Central Florida Disney Resort or the Southern California counterpart, Disneyland Resort, maybe more than a simple desire—it may fulfill a deep craving in their minds.

Yacht Beach Club

Disney’s Yacht Club Resort / Credit: Disney

Disney Smells

It does! Disney Parks have a distinctive yet subtle smell that many guests may not even consciously notice. Disney has filled its parks with machines called Smellitzers. These are all carefully disguised or hidden away, so as to not break the immersion, throughout attractions, shops, and walkways. Semllitzers expel soothing and familiar scents to guests at any Disney theme park.

“The brain region critical to smell is located near the hippocampus, which is an important brain structure that helps us remember,” Neuropsychologist Paul Nussbaum, an adjunct professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine,  explains. “That is why the sensation of smell can trigger memories.”

Pandora Sunset Animal Kingdom

Sunset at Pandora, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, Walt Disney World / Credit: Todd F. Burgess, Flickr

Peer Influence

A social media professor at the University of Florida, Andrew Selepak, explained that people are highly influenced by the photos that their circles share online. “Family vacations to Disney are not just photos of the family in mouse ears or after a fun ride, but the entire park,” he said.

He adds that often people want to go to Disney simply because they want to “belong to the elite group of those who have ‘been there, done that.’”

Disney's Contemporary Resort

Disney’s Contemporary Resort / Credit: Flickr


“Visiting Disney parks allows people to indulge their nostalgia by immersing themselves in this reliable world filled with familiar colors, characters, smells, and music,” says Erica Hepper, a lecturer of psychology at the University of Surrey in England.

Disney puts a lot of effort into triggering nostalgia in its visitors, making them yearn to return for more.

So, the next time someone gives you grief for your love for Disney, don’t sweat it. Science has proven that it’s a more than reasonable reaction to the Disney theme parks!

About Priyanka Kumar

Priyanka is a writer, artist, avid reader, and travel enthusiast based in Chicago. In her free time, she is probably walking by the lake, catching up on the latest releases on TV, or spending inordinate amounts of time rewatching Moana, Encanto, and her Disney Channel life-long favorites Zack and Cody wreak havoc on the Tipton.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.