Evaluating Participant Experience Journeys: Peak-End Moments, Global Summaries, Dispersion, and Pattern


  • Gary Ellis
  • Kaylee Jorgensen
  • Jingxian Jiang Texas A&M University
  • Darlene Locke




Substantial gains have been made in recent years toward understanding techniques for immersing participants in recreation activities. Immersed participants “become physically (or virtually) a part of the experience itself ” (Pine & Gilmore, 2020, p. 40); their actions merge with their awareness (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975). As competition in the leisure and travel industries intensifies, managers and program evaluators will need efficient approaches to measure the ebbs and flows of participants’ immersion during participation. The latest research suggests it is not sufficient to use a single number to represent the entire flow of immersion during an activity. Rather, measures of salient features of participants’ “experience journeys” may be needed. Experience journey measurement requires measuring participants’ immersion repeatedly, at successive intervals as an activity unfolds. We developed an efficient way of measuring immersion experience journeys and examined relations between select experience journey characteristics (central tendency, dispersion, and pattern) and two outcomes ordinarily valued by park and recreation managers: enjoyment and proclivity to recommend the activity to other people. We collected experience observations (n=1,189) from 150 youth in a summer camp, who completed questionnaires immediately following each of eight structured activity sessions: swimming, climbing, archery, riflery, dancing, kayaking, fishing, and crafts. Participants shared their immersion experience journeys immediately after the activity by drawing a line through a time-series graph representing their levels of immersion as the activity progressed. Immersion at each time point in the experience journey was measured as the vertical distance from the baseline to the drawn line, at each of 12 sequential observations. The questionnaire also included conventional post-hoc measures of enjoyment and proclivity to recommend the activity. Dispersion and pattern of immersion experience journeys were found to be important predictors of enjoyment and proclivity to recommend. Two measures of central tendency (peak-end average and global average) were also strong predictors. Models using global summaries as the measure of central tendency of immersion explained greater variance than peak-end averages until pattern and dispersion were added to the models. Results point to the potential utility of new and efficient questionnaires for monitoring experience journeysand continuously improving recreation programs and events.





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