Title page for ETD etd-06062008-164048

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Borrie, William T.
URN etd-06062008-164048
Title Measuring the multiple, deep, and unfolding aspects of the wilderness experience using the experience sampling method
Degree PhD
Department Forestry
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Roggenbuck, Joseph W. Committee Chair
Barrow, Mark V. Jr. Committee Member
Hull, Robert Bruce IV Committee Member
Marion, Jeffrey L. Committee Member
Williams, Daniel R. Committee Member
  • Wilderness area users
  • outdoor recreation
  • leisure
  • verbal reports
Date of Defense 1995-07-02
Availability unrestricted
This study of the wilderness visitors to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia sought to better define the dimensions of the lived wilderness experience, and the modes in which it is experienced; to understand the dynamics of the wilderness experience and how the wilderness experience changes across time; and to examine the relationship between the wilderness experience and ideal leisure. Because of people's apparent difficulty in accurately reporting experiences after the visit, the Experience Sampling Method was the primary data collection procedure.

Six aspects of the wilderness experience were identified, inspired by the writings of Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Sigurd Olson, and other wilderness writers: oneness, primitiveness, humility, timelessness, solitude, and care. Five modes of experiencing the wilderness were developed based on the work of environmental psychology and leisure scholars : focus on self (introspection), focus on others (socialness), focus on task (task orientation), focus on emotions (emotional intensity), and focus on environment (environmental sensitivity). Confirmatory factor analysis, principal component analysis and reliability analyses were carried out to assess the stability and meaningfulness of the scales used to operationalize these dimensions.

Sixty-two visitors were asked to carry and respond to the study questionnaire during multiple moments of their visit to the Okefenokee Wilderness. Oneness, humility, timelessness, and care appeared to be pertinent dimensions of the wilderness experience, as were the more traditionally measured values of solitude and primitiveness. Using a repeated measures analysis of variance, time was a significant factor in determining item response, thus demonstrating the dynamic nature of the wilderness experience. Ideal or peak leisure, operationalized by a combination of three measures of leisure (intrinsic motivation, perceived freedom, and connotative leisure) and high levels of intensity, was found to be correlated with raised feelings of oneness, humility, primitiveness, and solitude. The Experience Sampling Method identified important multiple dimensions of the wilderness experience, and demonstrated the dynamic nature of the experience more vividly than past post-hoc measures. However, the study also identified potential problems of ESM as a data collection instrument in wilderness : concerns of obtrusiveness on the visitor's experience, behavioral reactance, and respondent compliance.

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