Effects of Outdoor Recreation Participation and Interpretation
Keywords:recreation, environmental interpretation, environmental concern, Dunlap-Heffernan hypothesis, Thailand
Effects of Outdoor Recreation Participation and InterpretationWe conducted a field experiment in Thailand to evaluate effects of appreciative and mechanized forms of recreation and interpretation on environmental concerns of park visitors. Research participants were randomly assigned to one of eight experimental conditions defined by recreation type (appreciative vs. mechanized), recreation activity (birdwatching, nature photography, motorcycling, and motor boating) nested within recreation type, and interpretation (interpretation provided vs. not provided). We measured three dimensions of environmental concern: specific environmental concern (SEC), worldwide environmental concern (WEC), and general environmental behavior (GEB). Appreciative activity participants and participants who received interpretation had significantly higher SEC scores than those who participated in mechanized activities and those who did not receive interpretation. Interpretation experiences elevated WEC and GEB, with the effect being more substantial among participants who participated in mechanized recreation activities.
Appropriate cautions are advised against making management decisions based on results of individual studies, but within that context, we suggest the following:
• Interpretation programs designed using Tilden’s (1957) classic principles of interpretation can be effective in elevating environmental concern.
• Interpretation programs may be more effective if conducted as part of appreciative recreation experiences (e.g., hiking, birdwatching, nature photography).
• For WEC and GEB, interpretation may mitigate detrimental effects of participation in mechanized forms of recreation (motor boating, motorcycling).
• This study represents the first of its kind to document the proposed effects on environmental concern using experimental methods.
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