Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

The Social Nature of Leisure Involvement

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

The Social Nature of Leisure Involvement

Article excerpt

Introduction

Selin and Howard's (1988) conceptual piece on ego involvement spurred considerable interest among leisure researchers. Since then, numerous investigations have appeared in the leisure literature examining the utility of the construct in a variety of contexts. For example, it has been proposed and found that involvement is positively related to product search behavior (Celsi & Olson, 1988; Jamrozy, Backman, & Backman, 1996; Kerstetter & Kovich, 1997), the ability to differentiate between facilities and activity-related equipment (Bloch, Black, & Lichtenstein, 1989; Havitz, Dimanche, & Bogle, 1994; Kim, Scott, & Crompton, 1997), frequency of participation and purchase (Backman & Crompton, 1991; McCarville, Crompton, & Sell, 1993; McIntyre & Pigram, 1992), the size of consumers' awareness and evoked sets (Block et al., 1989, Celsi & Olson, 1988), and several sociodemographic variables (Madrigal, Havitz, & Howard, 1992; Obenour & Backman, 1995; Wiley, Shaw, & Havitz, 2000). While these efforts have made valuable contributions toward furthering our understanding of leisure behavior and involvement in particular, many of these investigations have been limited by the measures used to operationalize the construct. Most research on the construct has been quantitative and have employed one of several standardized scales (see Havitz & Dimanche, 1997, for review). Unfortunately, the performance of these scales has been inconsistent and has possibly raised more questions relating to construct validity than it has addressed. As suggested by Havitz and Dimanche (1999),

The methodological homogeneity of involvement research... must be challenged for at least two reasons. First, there is evidence of weakness in all instruments proposed and used to date. Inductive qualitative research, is needed to complement the current wave of deductive quantitative research... Second, qualitative techniques may also lead to improvements in our understanding of the relatively 'elusive' facets. (p. 272)

With this in mind, the purpose of this investigation was to develop an understanding of leisure involvement from a naturalistic perspective using several ethnographic research methods. Data were collected from campers attending an agricultural fair in central Pennsylvania and were used to address our primary research question, "Why do campers annually return to participate in the Fair?" and two sub-questions, "What is the focus of their involvement?" and "How is their involvement maintained?"

Background Literature and Conceptual Framework

Enduring Involvement

In the context of leisure involvement, most conceptual definitions and operations of the construct have been borrowed from the consumer behavior literature (Havitz & Dimanche, 1997). While a number of definitions have been proposed (see Laaksonen, 1994), most have conceptualized involvement in terms of "personal relevance." In this sense, involvement reflects the degree to which a person devotes him or herself to an activity or associated product (Peter & Olson, 1987; Slama & Tashchiam, 1985; Zaichkowsky, 1985). Additionally, involvement refers to the strength or extent of the cognitive linkage between the self and stimulus object. This is indicated by expressions stressing the extent of an object's relatedness, connections or engagement to an individual's self concept, needs, and values as determinants of involvement.

There is general consensus that leisure involvement is best conceptualized as a multidimensional construct (Havitz & Dimanche, 1997; Kim et al., 1997; Laurent & Kapferer, 1985; McIntyre, 1989). Dimensions receiving strongest support in the leisure literature include: (a) attraction, which refers to the perceived importance or interest in an activity or a product, and the pleasure or hedonic value derived from participation or use; (b) sign, which refers to the unspoken statements that purchase or participation conveys about the person; and (c) centrality to lifestyle, which encompasses both social contexts such as friends and families centered around activities, and the central role of the activity in the context of an individual's life. …

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