Thinking Like a Park: The Effects of Sense of Place, Perspective-Taking, and Empathy on Pro-Environmental Intentions


  • Gordon J. Walker
  • Ross Chapman


Aldo Leopold, empathy, outdoor recreation, parks, perspective- taking, pro-environmental intentions, sense of place, sustainable development


Over the past few years there have been various calls for reformulating sustainable development in a more local and relational manner. Based on Aldo Leopold’s description of his experience in “Thinking Like a Mountain” as well as concepts in recreation and psychology, a framework was developed that examined potential relationships among sense of place, perspective-taking, empathy, and pro-environmental intentions. In order to determine if these relationships were consistent with study expectations, 258 visitors to a Canadian national park completed an on-site questionnaire. As expected, sense of place did significantly affect both empathy and perspective-taking, and perspective-taking did significantly affect empathy. Furthermore, although neither sense of place nor empathy affected the self-focused depreciative intention (e.g., not littering), sense of place did significantly affect the place-related intention (e.g., not visiting a favorite place for environmental reasons) indirectly through empathy, and both empathy and sense of place significantly affect the other-focused depreciative intention (e.g., picking up other peoples’ litter), the poaching reduction intention (e.g., paying higher entrance fees), and the volunteering intention (e.g., working on park projects). Study findings, management implications, and future research recommendations are discussed.