The Analysis on Research Trend of Perceived Crowding in Social Carrying Capacity

사회적 수용력 연구에 있어 혼잡지각 관련연구 동향 분석

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  • ABSTRACT

    One of the most important issues regarding outdoor recreation is sustaining user satisfaction and maintaining resources. It is mainly discussed by North American scholars as bringing up carrying capacity as a subject matter. The early study of outdoor recreation about carrying capacity begins with depicting physical and ecological characteristics of environment which wilderness has. Recently, human behaviors has expanded from the effect on outdoor recreation area to dealing user recreation experience in socio-psychological aspect. As explaining relations between perceived crowding and quality of recreation experience, the studies about social carrying capacity declare that the satisfaction is influenced on socially and psychologically perceived crowding rather than level of density. People feel crowded when they see more people than they expected. Perceived crowding can be explained as psychological dimension which passes physical density. Therefore, crowding means a imaginary assessment about not only matters of relations with density but also proper use level of specific behavior and environment. People feel crowded even though they are in low density situation. The reason why is that visitor thinks under his or her personal or social norm that there have to be less people. Responses to handle negative effect from perceived density can be sectionalized as perceived response like site succession, product shift, dissonance reduction and behavioral response like displacement. Users tend to adapt specific situation through rationalization. Since current studies focus on large scale North American outdoor recreation areas, It is difficult to apply the same for Korea. However, the reality is that studies in leisure and recreation are not sufficient enough. Several suggestions for further studies were discussed.


    아웃도어 레크리에이션 지역과 관련된 가장 중요한 이슈 중 하나는 이용자의 만족도를 일정수준으로 유지하고 자원을 보전하는 것이다. 이러한 이슈는 수용력이란 주제로 북미 학자들을 중심으로 지속적으로 논의되어왔다. 수용력과 관련된 아웃도어 레크리에이션의 초기 연구는 황야지역이 보유하고 있는 물리적 및 생태적 환경의 특성을 기술하는 데서 시작되어, 최근에는 인간의 행태가 아웃도어 레크리에이션 지역에 미치는 영향으로부터 사회심리적인 측면에서의 이용자 레크리에이션 경험을 다루는 영역까지 확대되었다. 사회적 수용력 연구들은 혼잡지각과 레크리에이션 경험의 질과의 관계를 설명하면서, 만족도가 공간적 이용밀도보다는 다른 이용자들과의 관계에 의한, 즉 사회심리적으로 지각된 혼잡에 의해 더 많이 영양을 받고 있음을 밝히고 있다. 사람들은 특정 레크리에이션 장소에서 실제 자신이 기대한 사람보다 더 많은 사람들을 보았을 경우, 방문자들이 혼잡함을 느낀다. 혼잡지각은 물리적 밀도를 넘어선 심리학적 영역으로 설명되어 질 수 있으며, 혼잡이란 밀도와의 관계 문제뿐만 아니라, 특정한 활동과 환경의 적절한 이용수준에 대한 가상적인 평가를 뜻한다. 사람들은 낮은 밀도에서조차 혼잡하다고 느끼는데, 그 이유는 방문객이 가진 개인적 및 사회적 규범에 의해 그 지역에 더 적은 사람들이 있어야만 한다고 해석하기 때문이다. 과밀 인지로부터 발생하는 부정적인 영향에 대처하기 위한 대응행태는 site succession, product shift, dissonance reduction와 같은 인지적 대응행태와 displacement와 같은 행동적 대응행태로 분류될 수 있다. 이용자들은 가능한 한 긍정적인 결과를 유도하려는 자기합리화 과정을 통해 특정 지역의 상황에 적응하는 특성을 보인다. 기존 연구들은 북미의 대규모 아웃도어 레크리에이션 지역을 대상으로 연구되었으므로 우리나라에 그대로 적용하기에는 무리가 있다. 그럼에도 불구하고 우리나라 현실에 맞는 여가 및 레크리에이션 분야의 연구들은 거의 이루어지지 않고 있는 실정이다. 향후 필요한 연구들에 대한 몇몇 제안들이 제시되었다.

  • KEYWORD

    social carrying capacity , crowding , outdoor recreation

  • I. Introduction

    After opening of Jeju island “Olle” course on September, 2007, walking craze has hit the whole Korea. Actually, the walking participants are estimated about 3,000 first, but till 2009, about 251,000 people had visited the course and till October, 2010, about 591,000 people had visited there. Many problems occurred as there are too many to accept whole people.

    At first, as visitors has risen, the ground is digged up and tree are opened up their thin roots now. Garbages are thrown everywhere because of the lack of amenities such as public toilets or trash bins. Additionally, the administration made artificial road by spreading stone slates because of maintenance but the width of the road becomes small and surrounding stratum was damaged.

    And many visitors feel unpleasant and crowded because the crowd flocks to the outdoor reaction sites at the same time. It is no longer limited to “Olle” course. Participant increase for outdoor recreation makes people stay in the places like mountains, rivers, parks and esplanades limitlessly. Many people who want to enjoy leisure activities feel more dissatisfaction than satisfaction.

    Like this, a notable significance in regards to outdoor recreation is sustaining user satisfaction and maintaining resources. The said issue is continuously discussed with relevance to carrying capacity by North American scholars mainly.

    The initial experiment of outdoor recreation, including the related topic of carrying capacity, starts with analyses of the wilderness’ physical and ecological characteristics. Ecological perspective of carrying capacity identifies with the maximum population density of the maintainable species while keeping the quality of the specifically chosen area from deteriorating. The idea of ecological sense, which was initially used in the beginning stage of ecology experiments, broadened its spectrum with the development of human life expansion. Consequently, human influence on outdoor recreation areas led to treating user recreation experience in respect to social psychology(Kim, 1997).

    Since current studies focus on large scale North American outdoor recreation areas, it is difficult to apply the same for South Korea. Due to working conditions of South Koreans, they are often made to enjoy their vacation in a specific time of the season causing overcrowding. Consequently, resources and various recreational facilities are overused and damaged and ultimately degrade participants experience as a result. However, the reality is that the related studies in leisure and recreation area are not sufficient enough. Therefore, the purpose of the study is to examine other related studies regarding outdoor recreation settings, especially about research trends for perceived crowding in social carrying capacity and suggest field study which should be applied to outdoor recreation settings in Korea.

    II. Social Carrying Capacity

    Capacity which comes from ecologists’s theory is used to express the ability that the physical and biological environment can endure the outdoor recreation activities. But scholars’ interests in outdoor recreation is usually for marking quantity of resources that is related to the outdoor recreation experience(Kim, 2001).

    Shelby and Herberlein(1986) divide carrying capacity into 4 categories: ecological capacity, physical capacity, facility capacity, and social capacity. Social capacity deals with the psychological influence that user recreation experience has due to the increase in use level. Conceptually, it means that user experience will not be psychologically affected by other users. Variables that allow for estimating social capacity include perceived crowding, displacement, conflict, and product shift.

    The significance of social capacity lies in the fact that it provides vital information to reduce user satisfaction owing to use level overload in the process of establishing outdoor recreation area management plan. Thus, social capacity estimates are utilized for controlling and helping with management decision making. This acts as the base of establishing management strategy with respect to space, hour, and period variation.

    The first case of social capacity study was performed by Wager(1964) in order to refer to the perceived crowding as well as the relationship between recreation quality and experience. North American scholars later explained that the relationship between pleasantness and perceived crowding of natural parks and wilderness as the related variable. Their experiments not only described the relationship between perceived crowding and recreation experience quality, but also proved that satisfaction is influenced more by the relationship with other users than the use level density. Thus, social psychologically perceived crowding came out to be more influential.

    Since Wager’s study in 1964, until 1990, about 2,100 articles were published focusing on the capacity issue. Among them, about 1,300 articles which account for half of them were conducted from 1975 to 1986(Stankey & McCool, 1989). Great interests on the early capacity study decreased because of lack of science but they rose again because of death of visitors in outdoor recreation sites, conflicts between visitors, participation from government to private organization from 1990s.

    Actually, Manning(1999) sectionalizes crowding level which the outdoor recreation can endure into 4 stages. In other words, it segregates the stages as no coping, cognitive coping, intra-site displacement and leaving. These 4 stages can be sectionalized as 2 parts; persevered attitude(no coping and cognitive coping) and behavior(intra-site displacement and leaving). From among these, such levels under leaving stage that the participants leave the specific outdoor recreation site was seen as carrying captivity(Kuentzel & Heberlein, 1992).

    Social carrying capacity establishes relations with crowding closely. it is emphasized in outdoor recreation area which regards the concept of social carrying capacity that wants to find use level that do not drop the participants’ satisfaction as important.

    III. Expectation Theory, Perceived Crowding, and Satisfaction

    Expectation is a very important issue in social capacity, because it affects user recreation experience at many levels. By using expectation theory based on people who participate in recreation activities, Graefe, Vaske, and Kuss(1984) proved that visitors feel confused when they see more people than they expect.

    Social capacity has a close relationship with crowding, and it is a very important aspect next to use level density. Generally, crowding is a negative effect of increase in density. In this opinion, negative effect is occurred when the social stimulation level which exceeds personal needs is made by appearance of other outdoor participations or when the disturbance about achievement is made. Therefore, crowding in specific place is the changed personal response by various social and physical elements whether it is subjective or objective(Grafe, et al., 1984). Thus, it can be expressed as the hindrance of self purpose and value due to increase in density(Manning, 1986).

    However, in reality, evaluation of crowding depends on personal values and inner norms, and most researchers separate density and crowding for this reason. Such is led by the fact that the notion of crowding includes personal judgment on the number of people in a specific space, characteristics of objective conditions such as interaction with density, and subjective psychological elements. Thus, perceived crowding can be explained not only by physical density but also by psychological dimension. Consequently, crowding is not only a problem of its correlation with density, but also a hypothetical evaluation of specific activity and appropriate use level of the environment(Kuentzel & Heberlein, 1992). In addition, seperating the notions for density and crowding, Stokols(1976) said that crowding is negative or positive assessment decided by density level which has psychological meaning while density is physical notion related to ideal number of people per spatial unit(Manning, 1999).

    Gramann and Burdge(1984) sectionalized the types of crowding as goal-related crowding, behavioral crowding and physical crowding. goal-related crowding is discord degree to the density of psychological goal which triggers specific behavior. Behavioral crowding is exposure level to some threats or unpleasant behaviors from another user(i.e. noise, garbage, fuss, reckless behavior and etc.) And physical crowding is size of place that is required to enjoy behavior without imprisonment(Gramann & Burdge, 1984).

    The variables that influence perceived crowding are studied in various ways. Jacob and Schreyer(1980) stated that visitors of recreation areas feel crowded when their activities or purposes are hindered by density. Gramann and Burge(1984) explained that unlike the preceding experiments, which suggested that perceived crowding is swayed by personal characteristics, physical conditions provide a stronger influence on the visitors’ decisions due to the fact that people who choose to visit recreation areas with high density already expect some level of crowding.

    The experiments to investigate the relationship between perceived crowding and satisfaction continued with belief in its possibility from the basis of social capacity. The early experiments focused on a two-variable approach, which established the negative relationship of density and visitor satisfaction. In other words, it supports the economical theory that total satisfaction of the visitors is increased by the rise in density, but personal satisfaction is bound to decrease (Kim, 2003; Shelby & Vaske, 2008). If the increase in use level density reaches a point of hindering personal motivation and purpose, visitors feel crowded, which becomes the cause of dissatisfaction (Manning & Ciali, 1980).

    However, according to a successful study carried out on “density-crowding-satisfaction”, the correlation was minimal and was often statistically not valid. After a thorough study by Graefe et al.(1984) in attempting to adjust the preceding experiments on correlation between perceived crowding and overall satisfaction, the outcome was significantly low. Even though there is an increase in use level density or perceived crowding, it is possible to maintain visitors’ satisfaction due to their participation in recreation activities with various expectations, which sufficiently satisfies personal expectations depending on their use level. Such result supports the cognitive dissonance theory offered by Herbelein and Shelby(1977). Thus, regardless of perceived crowding, psychological tendency to satisfyingly evaluate recreation activities, which are personally chosen and paid expenses for, is quite evident.

    IV. Norms and the Process of Rationalization

    Landis(2000) defined the norm as required or acceptable behavior in specific situation. In recreation area, Vaske(1993) defined that it is a standard indicator to the environment and activity. Like this, A variety of opinions are being offered with regard to essentials and functions of the norm, but norms are regulations that enact what people’s conversations and behaviors. They also become a personal norm to judge activities, actions, and surrounding situation in a social environment. In addition, Goggenbuck et al.(1991) noted the norm to be the official prescription of behavior and appropriate actions in specific environment. Crowding norm is not interpreted negatively before crowding situation is perceived not to disturb personal goal or value. As the factors of crowding norm, it includes many variables like motive, preference, attitude, past experience, expectant level and etc.

    The early study related to the norm is started with calculating number of people who can possibly encounter without perceived crowding within fixed time(Donnelly, Vaske, Whittaker, & Shelby, 2000; Kuentzel, Laven, Manning, & Valliere, 2008). Maximum allowable visitor of national park whose purpose is outdoor natural environment travel is high in case of users who camp down on camping ground near by the entrance to the trail but in case of visitors who camp down on the ground far from the entrance, it is low(Patterson & Mammitt, 1990). So, the number of encountable people becomes different nevertheless the visitors are identical. Shelby and Herberlein(1986) applied Jackson(1965)’s ‘return potential curve model’ to conceptually explain that perceived crowding relies on different conditions by presenting examples of secluded parks, mid-density parties, and crowded city streets. What this model suggests is that the users already have preconceived notions of how crowded or vacant their chosen area or condition will be.

    Participant’s capacity in crowding is increased when he or she uses a motor bout which is moved by mechanic power rather than rides a canoe which is moved by muscular. Perceived crowding from the participant in non-power leisure activity is increased when he or she encounters another participant in another type of leisure activity. For instance, Perceived crowding is caused when the user encounters motor bout user rather than another user in non-power leisure activity(Shelby, Heberlein, Vaske, Alfano, 1983; Stankey, 1973). According to the result from vertical study focusing on the visitors of Apostle archipelago, perceived crowding was decreased in the research in 1985 even though the total amount of users were increased more than in 1975. And same situation happened in the research in 1997. Kuentzel and Heberlein(1992) interpreted the situation, when the participants in the leisure activity are increased, as changed norm which user could allow and it said that encounter norm is proper variable which explains perceived crowding rather than the total amount of user. Stanky and McCool(1989) also suggested that the perceived crowding is based on the other’s characteristics and behavior or value of manager and user rather than the total amount or density of visitor.

    Responses to handle negative effect from perceived density can be sectionalized as perceived response and behavioral response. Behavioral response is called displacement that contains these kinds of behaviors; When level density is on the rise or higher than expectation, user feels unsatisfaction and changes its behavioral pattern or moves to the areas where has low level density. There are site succession(Kuentzel & Heberlein, 1992) that user itself frees from density and judges for same level density henceforth, product shift(Shelby & Heberlein, 1986) that user tries to change experience appraisal from recreation participation and dissonance reduction that minimizes negative experience for decreasing user’s psychological conflict from perceived density.

    Considering that recreation characteristics are autonomic participation and freedom of choice to satisfy intrinsic motivation, these responses are based on rationalization theory that tries to induce positive result as possible as they can. User tries to adapt the situation in specific area via rationalization. In other words, recreation activities something spontaneous and subjective so they are selected by one’s values and norms. Because of it is the situation that the one select, satisfaction level is not definitely negative. all the more, the satisfaction level can be high superficially.

    Recreational experience includes physical environment of the activities, social behaviors of the recreation participants, and perceived self-awareness (Patterson & Hammitt, 1990). Recreational experience may allow expressing satisfaction and dissatisfaction following physical place and social environment while experiencing rationalization at the time of the situation.

    V. Conclusion

    One of the most important issues about outdoor recreation is sustaining user satisfaction and maintaining resources. It is mainly discussed by North American scholars as bringing up carrying capacity as a subject matter.

    The early study of outdoor recreation about carrying capacity begins with depicting physical and ecological characteristics of environment which wilderness has. Recently, human behaviors has expanded from the effect on outdoor recreation area to dealing user recreation experience in socio-psychological aspect.

    Recent studies aim at outdoor recreation areas in wide North America so it is hard to apply the same for Korea. Because of the working conditions of Korea, visitors are concentrated on specific season causing overcrowding. Therefore, there can be some damages of resources and facilities and crowding making the quality of experiences that the leisure participant expected decreased. However, the reality is that the related studies in leisure and recreation area are not sufficient enough. Therefore, the purpose of the study was to check other studies about outdoor recreation setting especially about research trends for perceived crowding and satisfaction and suggest field study which should be applied to outdoor recreation settings in Korea.

    Explaining relations between perceived crowding and quality of recreation experience, the studies about social carrying capacity declare that the satisfaction is influenced on socially and psychologically perceived crowding rather than level density.

    People feel crowded when they see more people than he expected. Perceived crowding can be explained as psychological dimension which passes physical density. Therefore, crowding means a imaginary assessment about not only matters of relations with density but also proper use level of specific behavior and environment. People feel crowded even though they are in low density situation. The reason why is that visitor thinks under his or her personal or social norm that there have to be less people. Responses to handle negative effect from perceived density can be sectionalized as perceived response like site succession, product shift, dissonance reduction and behavioral response like displacement. Users tend to adapt specific situation through rationalization.

    The following is a suggestion for social capacity and perceived crowding studies based on Korea.

    First, studies on estimating optimum capacity of the areas by facilities, time and day and researching the following management plan are necessary.

    Second, finding the fine line between elements that do or do not cause perceived crowding is crucial.

    Third, studies on the comparison between resource-based recreation areas and space-intensive reaction areas are needed.

    Fourth, it is vital to experiment on the displacement of destination due to perceived crowding.

    Lastly, studies on the conflict between the same or different kinds of recreational activities are required.

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