Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Toward a Structural Model of Challenge Experience in Adventure Recreation

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Toward a Structural Model of Challenge Experience in Adventure Recreation

Article excerpt


Adventure recreation is receiving growing attention in both the academic and business spheres (Wu & Liang, 2011). It is defined as an outdoor activity in which participants deliberately seek challenge through interaction with the natural world (Ford & Blanchard, 1993). Cordes and Ibrahim (2003) show that challenge and stimulation are among the major attractions of adventure recreation. Previous studies confirm that one of the motivations for engaging in adventure recreation is to experience challenge (Ewert & Hollenhorst, 1989; Lee, Graefe, & Li, 2007; Manfredo, Driver, 8c Brown, 1983), suggesting a dose relationship between challenge and adventure recreation.

Recreation operators provide a variety of adventure activities to meet recreationists' expectation of challenge, such as mountaineering, whitewater kayaking, whitewater rafting, and scuba diving. Previous studies on adventure recreation have primarily looked at the psychological and behavioral aspects of participation in adventure activity from different theoretical points of view, including motivation (Lee et al., 2007), specialization (Thapa, Graefe, & Meyer, 2006), flow (Wu 8c Liang, 2011), fear (Camicelli-Filho, Schwartz, & Tahara, 2010), and risk (Creyer, Ross, 8c Evers, 2003). Few studies have looked into psychological and behavioral models for partidpation in adventure activities from the perspective of challenge perception.

Psychological studies describe challenge as an outcome of stress appraisal. Individuals assess the interplay of person-environment, utilize their resources, and then embrace the potential for gain or growth (Lazarus 8c Folkman, 1984). Challenge can increase one's personal resource load yet retain the potential for benefit or growth (Lazarus 8c Folkman, 1984). Among the literature on leisure, challenge perception has been described as an extension of personal limits, a sense of novelty, and the experience of stimulation (Caldwell, Smith, 8c Weissinger, 1992). In leisure life, challenge can reduce boredom (Barnett, 2005; Caldwell et al, 1992). Priest (1992) believes that challenge is an interaction between external risks and internal abilities, or, in context of adventure recreation, a situation in which partidpants apply their personal abilities to resolve the risks produced by adventure. The motivation of challenge in adventure recreation embodies the motives of exdtement, personal testing, and accomplishment (Pomfret, 2006).

Csikszentmihalyi (1975) defined flow as a situation in which an individual's perception of an activity's challenge matches the individual's perception of his or her personal skill. Flow is also described as the "state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it" (Csikszentmihalyi, 1992). Challenge therefore plays an important role in recreation partidpation. The subject of challenge has a long history of development in both the work and education fields. Numerous studies have demonstrated that challenge perception can evoke emotional and behavioral responses in individuals, such as satisfaction (Dewettinck 8c Buyens, 2006), effective commitment (Dewettinck 8c Buyens, 2006), positive emotion (Skinner 8c Brewer, 2004), enjoyment (Koka 8c Hein, 2003), happiness (Noor, 1995) and working smart (Holmes 8c Srivastava, 2002). Based on qualitative interviews, Schmidt and Little (2007) note that the sensation of challenge in an activity can trigger a spiritual experience in the participant. Although challenge seems to have positive results for activity participants, few empirical studies have verified the psychological process of challenge perception in adventure recreation partidpants.

This study attempts to establish a model of challenge perception in adventure recreation from the perspective of personal experience. Past studies have noted that flow state, satisfaction, and psychological well-being are potential outcomes of participation in recreation activi- ties (Jones, Hollenhorst, Pema, & Selin, 2000; Lee, Shafer, & Kang, 2005; Poon & Fung, 2008). …

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