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Psychologically Deep Experiences in Nature Open Access


Other title
Spiritual experience
Outdoor recreation
Nature Deficit Disorder
Nature based recreation
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Fenton, Lara
Supervisor and department
Walker, Gordon (Physical Education and Recreation)
Examining committee member and department
Halpenny, Elizabeth (Physical Education and Recreation)
Harshaw, Howie (Physical Education and Recreation)
Williams, Daniel R. (USDA Forest Service)
Fox, Karen (Physical Education and Recreation)
Physical Education and Recreation

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Mannell (1996) describes psychologically deep experiences (PDEs) “as special, out-of-the-ordinary, or meaningful” experiences that typically involve altered perceptions of time, self, and surroundings (p. 405). This dissertation focuses on four PDEs— Turner’s (1969) Communitas, Kaplan and Kaplan’s (1989) Fascination, Csikszentmihalyi’s (1975) Flow, and Spiritual experiences (i.e., the ‘Big Four’). This study examines the triggers for, and lived conscious experience of, the ‘Big Four’ to compare and contrast the experiences. A scale was developed to measure the ‘Big Four’ based on a literature review of existing scales, in-depth interviews (n = 12), and expert review (n =5). After feedback was incorporated, the newly developed comprehensive PDE scale was placed online (n = 431). The resulting survey data was randomly split into two groups to create a test sample and a cross validation sample and was analyzed using confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) to confirm that the items for each of the ‘Big Four’ were related to their respective factor. A structural equation model (SEM) was implemented to discover the relationships among the factors. Descriptive results indicate that: (a) there is empirical support for the presence of all of the ‘Big Four’ experiences, although Fascination was by far the most frequently experienced PDE; and (b) triggers for the ‘Big Four’ included, to varying degrees, scenery, social interaction, and recreational activity, corroborating Watson, Williams, Roggenbuck and Daigle’s (1992) nature experience modes. CFA indicated (a) a good overall fit (e.g. RMSEA = 0.047 and 0.038, NFI = 0.94 and 0.94) and (b) one potentially problematic item that measures Fascination, ‘Effortless Attention’. With the item dropped there was little change in fit statistics, except for a drop in ECVI (3.85 to 3.63 and 5.45 to 4.40). The hypothesized structural equation model showed poor model fit (RMSEA = 0.14 and NFI = 0.79). Once a problematic item measuring Communitas was dropped, fit statistics were acceptable (RMSEA = 0.087 and NFI = 0.93) but with only one significant relationship – the impact of Communitas on who people were with. Findings support the current nature based urban restoration movement and indicates the benefits of PDEs.
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