Daria Stacy

Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Anderson Young, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Qwynne Lackey, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Sharon Todd, Ph.D.


The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between perceived competence and flow theory in the activity of outdoor navigation. This relationship was examined at beginner, intermediate, advanced, and expert skill levels of navigation, targeting a population in the Adirondack Region due to its challenging, thickly forested terrain. The study used a multi-method approach encompassing both quantitative and qualitative data. Surveys were administered to examine beginner, intermediate, and advanced navigators following a formal navigation course at SUNY Cortland’s Outdoor Education Practicum at Raquette Lake or an Advanced Map and Compass Bushwhack Course or Map and Compass Fundamentals Course at the Adirondack Mountain Club in Lake Placid. Surveys were adapted from a study by Iso-Ahola, La Verde, and Graefe (1989) to measure specific (day of) and general (long term) perceived competence in the activity of navigation. The Flow State Scale by Jackson and Marsh (1996) measured nine critical dimensions of flow state, including (1) challenge-skill balance; (2) action and awareness merging; (3) clear goals; (4) unambiguous feedback; (5) total concentration; (6) sense or paradox of control; (7) loss of self-consciousness; (8) time transformation; and (9) autotelic experience. These nine dimensions were used to conduct semi-structured interviews with the expert skill level of navigators to understand the complexity of backcountry experiences. A total of 50 participants completed the survey, and 11 experts completed interviews. It was concluded from the quantitative data that there is a simple positive correlational relationship between perceived competence and flow state. Specific perceived competence has a stronger correlation to flow state than general perceived competence for each skill level. Interview data with experts also demonstrated this relationship but also showed a fluctuating involvement in a flow state during navigation rather than a continuous one.