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Changes in perceptions of risk and competence among beginning scuba divers

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The adventure experience paradigm theorizes that individuals engaging in high-risk recreation exhibit changes in perceptions of risk and competence. While previous research has examined changes in perceptions for individuals engaged in short-term, high-risk recreation, there is no research examining patterns of perceptual change through extended involvement in risk recreation activities. The purpose of this study was to examine changes in perceived risk and perceived competence throughout a 14-week basic scuba diving course. Participants (n = 57) completed the dimensions of an adventure experience (DAE) at the start and end of the course as well as before and after their first time on scuba, first open water dive, and first off shore dive. Changes in perceived risk and perceived competence were examined. Results indicated a significant decrease in perceived risk and a significant increase in both competence factors (attitudes and abilities) pre-to-post course and at most time intervals. Although statistically significant, changes in perceived risk and attitude may be of less practical significance (around 0.6 on a 10-point scale). However, perceived ability increased more noticeably (2.6 on a 10-point scale). The findings of this study support and further confirm the literature, which indicates repeated involvement in high-risk recreation decreases participants' perceptions of risk and increases perceptions of competence. Recommendations include further study of DAE psychometrics and research on how changes in perceptions of risk and competence are related to outcomes in adventure recreation.

Keywords: adventure experience; adventure theory; high-risk recreation; perceived competence; perceived risk; risk taking; scuba diving

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13669870802187691

Affiliations: Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, East Carolina University, Greenville, USA

Publication date: January 1, 2008

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