Date of Award

8-2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management

Advisor

McGuire, Francis A

Committee Member

Hallo , Jeffrey C

Committee Member

Mainella , Frances P

Committee Member

Pury , Cynthia L

Committee Member

Schmalz , Dorothy L

Abstract

The past decade has seen a movement within the field of psychology in which positive emotions have been emphasized as an important key to improved quality of life. The Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions indicates that such emotions may provide enduring reservoirs of personal strength and may broaden thought-action repertoires, opening people`s minds to new possibilities. One emotion that has begun to receive some attention among positive psychologists is awe. While little is known about this emotion, researchers and scholars have indicated that natural and outdoor environments are common settings in which people experience awe. The purpose of this study was to explore the functions and mechanisms of awe as it is experienced in outdoor settings. A collective case study was undertaken to gain an understanding of the potential consequences of awe as well as the things that elicit this emotion. Qualitative interviews and qualitative content analysis indicated that awe as experienced in the outdoors serves to motivate, inspire, and empower people to act, to provide an escape from everyday life, to encourage contemplation of life and existence, to strengthen relationships, to increase respect of nature, to facilitate learning, to create lasting positive memories, and to draw people back to the outdoors. Findings also indicated that various environmental, individual, and social factors contribute to experiences of awe in the outdoors. These factors include things one sees (e.g. natural phenomena, beauty, vastness), things one does (getting out, being in the right frame of mind), and individual characteristics (e.g. personal interests, spirituality, social orientation). Findings have important implications for recreation researchers and those who provide outdoor recreation experiences.

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