Date of Award

5-2007

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Recreation

First Advisor

Sharon Todd, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Anderson Young, Ph.D.

Abstract

In a decade where children and adults alike are inundated with distractions, including radio, television, video games, digital music players, mobile phones, and instant messenger programs, it is not hard to understand how an individual might spend days on end without ever experiencing silence. Technology has provided humans with a new scope and style of interconnectedness that allows nearly constant contact over some electronic media or another. Nowhere does this seem more prevalent than on the university campus, where students stay increasingly connected with family and friends through a number of electronic media. The result is that people may go days at a time without really ever being alone. While many primitive civilizations feared being alone (Westin, 1967), history is filled with examples of people who spent time alone to their advantage (Perschel, 2004; Short, 2003; Rosegrant, 1976; Kaye, 2006). However, even today, being alone is characterized more often as social malfunction than as a positive practice (Cramer & Lake, 1998). Research to understand the benefits of solitude is relatively new, as much previous research on solitude was geared toward alleviating or lessening the negative effects of being alone (Long & Averill, 2003). This concentration on the negative side of 2 solitude is not unwarranted, as isolation goes against the social aspect of human nature (Burger, 1995; Cramer & Lake, 1998). Loneliness is characterized by an involuntary social isolation, in sharp opposition to solitude’s voluntary nature. Imposed isolation has long been a form of punishment, exemplified by children sent to sit in their rooms or a prisoner put in solitary confinement. However, even excessive voluntary solitude may threaten a person’s social functioning (Larson & Lee, 1996). Henry David Thoreau, who often spoke reverently of solitude, concluded that it is a vital part of a balance including solitude, friendship, and society (Bode, 1962).

Just as negative perceptions of isolation are largely related to its imposition, positive perceptions exist in the context of choice. That solitude must be voluntary forms the very heart of motivation to examine individual differences in the reaction to solitude. The solo experience is widely used in wilderness programs, so an examination of how individuals experience solitude as a result of individual differences is pertinent to the field of outdoor education and recreation. In a wilderness solo experience, two overarching structures influence how a person will experience solitude, factors linked to the individual and those linked to the environment (Bobilya, Kalisch, McAvoy, & Jacobs, 2005b). Bobilya et al. (2005b) focused primarily on how the physical environment and individual perceptions relate to the solo experience and found that both factors had significant influence on how individuals experience solitude. However, they did not examine how participants’ personalities may affect their experiences of solitude. Typology theories attempt to explain individuals’ behaviors based on their personality type. Extraversion and introversion are personality traits related primarily to how an individual relates to others and the world. Extraversion is characterized by a desire for social interaction, whereas introversion is characterized by internal interaction with concepts and ideas (Myers, 1995). Language discussing extraversion and introversion leans toward discussing a level of extraversion alone, where low extraversion is synonymous with introversion. Because level of extraversion indicates the way people relate to others and their surroundings, it should also affect the way individuals experience solitude.

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