Clarifying Interpersonal and Social Values Conflict among Recreationists

Article excerpt


Researchers have analyzed recreation conflict for over four decades (e.g., Graefe & Thapa, 2004; Lucas, 1964). Although most researchers have examined interpersonal (i.e., goal interference) conflict (e.g., Jacob & Schreyer, 1980; Schneider, 2000), others have introduced and explored social values (i.e., social acceptability) conflict (Carothers, Vaske, & Donnelly, 2001; Vaske, Donnelly, Wittmann, & Laidlaw, 1995). Previous methodologies for defining interpersonal and social values conflict, however, can lead to a confound. Respondents categorized as experiencing interpersonal conflict may be expressing goal interference, social values, or both types of conflict. This research note offers methodological enhancements that: (a) clarify the conceptual distinction by sorting respondents into the most appropriate categories (i.e., no conflict, social values, interpersonal, or both), and (b) provide a multivariate evaluation of each type of conflict.

Conceptual and Measurement Distinctions

Interpersonal conflict occurs when the presence or behavior of an individual or group interferes with the goals of another individual or group (Jacob & Schreyer, 1980). A skier, for example, may experience interpersonal conflict if he or she is cut off by or collides with a snowboarder (Vaske, Dyar, & Timmons, 2004). Most recreation research has focused on interpersonal conflict between different activity groups such as non-motorized and motorized watercraft (Lucas, 1964; Shelby, 1980), skiers and snowboarders (Thapa & Graefe, 2003; Vaske, Carothers, Donnelly, & Baird, 2000; Vaske et al., 2004), hikers and mountain bikers (Carothers et al., 2001; Ramthun, 1995), hunters and non-hunters (Vaske et al., 1995), and cross-country skiers and snowmobilers (Jackson & Wong, 1982; Knopp & Tyger, 1973).

Various approaches have been used to measure interpersonal conflict (Watson, 1995). Some studies, for example, examined the extent to which visitors found encounters with others to be desirable or undesirable (e.g., Watson, Niccolucci, & Williams, 1994). Interpersonal conflict has also been described as the direct competition over resources (Devall & Harvey, 1981) or physical incompatibilities among groups (Bury, Holland, & McEwen, 1983). A more direct measure has examined the extent to which an encounter interferes with one's enjoyment (Watson, Williams, & Daigle, 1991). These approaches, however, suggest that conflict stems from problems associated with a given recreation experience.

Social values conflict occurs between groups who may not share similar norms/values about an activity (Ruddell & Gramann, 1994; Vaske et al., 1995). Unlike interpersonal conflict, social values conflict is defined in the literature as conflict that can occur even when there is no direct contact between the groups (Carothers et al., 2001). For example, although encounters with llama packing trips may be rare, individuals may philosophically disagree about the appropriateness of using these animals in the backcountry (Blahna, Smith, & Anderson, 1995).

A study at Mt. Evans, Colorado examined the distinction between interpersonal and social values conflict (Vaske et al., 1995). Interpersonal conflict between hunters and wildlife viewers was minimized due to the region's topography and management regulations separating the two activity groups. Conflict experienced between the groups was primarily attributed to differences in value orientations regarding the appropriateness of hunting and wildlife viewing. Nearly all of the non-hunters did not observe hunting-associated behaviors (e.g., see hunters, see animals be shot), yet still perceived social values conflict with hunters. Carothers et al. (2001) examined interpersonal and social values conflict among mountain bikers and hikers. Hikers were more likely to report both interpersonal and social values conflict than bikers. …