Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Self-Serving Bias in Visitors' Perceptions of the Impacts of Tourism

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Self-Serving Bias in Visitors' Perceptions of the Impacts of Tourism

Article excerpt

Introduction

The implications of tourism activity at a destination have been a topic of study for decades (Ap, 1992; Butler, 1974; Dogan, 1989; Hammitt & Cole; 1998, Pearce, 1989). Through such research, the positive and negative impacts of tourism across environmental, socio-cultural, and economic domains have been well documented (Allen, Patrick, Perdue, & Kelselback 1988; Farrell, Hall, & White, 2001; Ibitayo & Virden, 1996; Mathieson & Wall, 1982; Roggenbuck, Williams, & Watson, 1993), and frequendy derived from residents' perceptions (Ap, 1990; Lankford & Howard, 1994; Liu, Sheldon, & Var, 1987; Purdue, Long, & Allen, 1987; Sheldon 8c Var, 1984). Research examining visitors' perceptions of the impacts of tourism has been limited but is growing. Existing studies have typically examined the type of impacts perceived by visitors and the effect the impact has on visitors' experiences (Farrell et al.; Hillery, Nancarrow, Griffin, & Syme, 2001; MacKay & Campbell, 2004; Priskin, 2003). Unfortunately, there is virtually no research that considers how visitors perceive their own contribution to the impacts that result from tourism (Alessa, Bennett, & Klinsky, 2003). While examining factors that affect depreciative behaviors in coastal areas, Alessa et al. found that personal attribution of depreciative behavior had a significant effect on actual depreciative behavior. Specifically, the more visitors attributed depreciative behavior to themselves the fewer depreciative behaviors they exhibited. These results suggest that research examining visitors' attribution of impacts is an essential perspective needed to understand visitor behavior and to inform decisions about managing visitors and their related impacts.

The broad purpose of this research was to explore visitors' perceptions of their contribution to impacts, both positive and negative, at a destination. Specifically, the relationship between past experience and visitors' perceptions of their contribution to impacts was investigated. While past experience is not the only factor that affects perceptions, individuals who have similar levels of past experience in the same recreational environments often share similar perceptions about the natural environment (Ibitayo 8c Virden, 1996; Schreyer, Lime & Williams, 1984). It is therefore reasonable to suspect that a relationship exists between past experience and visitors' perceptions of tourism impacts, including their own, at a destination. Self-serving bias theory served as the theoretical framework to guide this research about perceptions of one's own behavior. Self-serving bias, although not previously applied to tourism settings, is a valuable framework for understanding individuals' perceptions of their behavior. This attribution theory explains to whom or what individuals will attribute outcomes for their actions. According to the theory, biases about one's behavior are not only affected by the need to present oneself in a positive manner but also to protect and enhance one's self-esteem. Specifically, positive outcomes are generally credited to internal causes while negative outcomes are attributed to external forces (Arkin, Appelman, & Burger, 1980; Bradley, 1978; Myers, 1990; Tedock, 1981).

Tourism Impact Research

The issue of tourism impacts made the transition from an economic perspective in the 1960s to a more holistic view in the 1980s, when it was recognized that all impacts, whether economic, socio-cultural or environmental, positive or negative, should be taken into consideration (Pearce, 1989; Xiao & Smith, 2006). Much of the tourism research to date that has explored people's perceptions of impacts has focused on residents' perceptions (Andereck, Valentine, Knopf, 8c Vogt, 2006; Gursoy & Rutherford, 2005; Jurowski, Uysal, & Williams, 1997; Lankford & Howard, 1994). This research has been useful to gain a thorough understanding of the various socio-cultural, environmental, and economic impacts related to tourism. …

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