Beyond Thrill-Seeking: Exploring Multiple Motives for Adventure Participation


  • Susan Houge Mackenzie University of Idaho


Psychological literature on adventure has generally focused on excitement or thrillseeking motives. However, while some adventure activities are of relatively short duration (e.g., sky diving) and are reputed to be “risk focused and adrenaline fuelled†(Brymer, Downey, & Gray, 2010, p. 193), others (e.g., mountain climbing) are of longer duration and require considerable planning. These activities can reward participants with feelings of achievement and satisfaction through prolonged engagement against the natural elements and the self (Woodman, Hardy, Barlow, & Le Scanff, 2010). The development of psychological measures, such as the Sensation-Seeking Scale (Zuckerman, 1971) and Telic Dominance Scale (Murgatroyd, Rushton, Apter, & Ray, 1978), have influenced the design and focus of adventure research (e.g., Cogan & Brown, 1999; Freixanet, 1991; Kerr, 1991). These studies, while informative, were limited to examining thrill or arousal-seeking dimensions of motivation and failed to consider other possible adventure participation motives. As a result, a gap in the literature developed which has only recently been addressed. Qualitative studies have found that adventure motivations may extend beyond thrill-seeking to include motives such as relationships with nature, self-mastery, negative affectivity, and escape self-awareness (e.g., Brymer et al., 2010; Castanier, Le Scanff, & Woodman, 2010; Varley, 2011). Brown and Fraser (2009) also debate the centrality of risk as a motive in educational adventure activities by observing that de-emphasizing risk can enhance teaching and learning opportunities in adventure settings. These collective findings suggested the need for further investigations of adventure participation motives.