Psychologically Deep Experiences in Nature

  • Author / Creator
    Fenton, Lara
  • 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.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2014
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Williams, Daniel R. (USDA Forest Service)
    • Harshaw, Howie (Physical Education and Recreation)
    • Halpenny, Elizabeth (Physical Education and Recreation)
    • Fox, Karen (Physical Education and Recreation)