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Mapping the inner experience of wilderness: An organizing framework

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 07:41 authored by Ashley, P

Wilderness can be a place for human transformation, with the wilderness experience increasingly recognized as being restorative and a positive contributor to psychological well-being (Talbot and Kaplan 1986; Kaplan and Kaplan 1989; Scherl 1989; Harper 1995; Mace et al. 2004; Garg et al. 2010; Hinds 2011; Ewert et al. 2011; DPIPWE 2014; European Wilderness Society 2014).

Restorative benefits from the wilderness experience include tranquility and inner peace (Kaplan and Kaplan 1989; Cumes 1998); calmness, relaxation, refreshment, revitalization (White et al. 2013), and mental and physical renewal (Talbot and Kaplan 1986); changes in perception, enjoyment, fascination, and sensory awareness (Kaplan and Talbot 1983); a sense of wholeness (Kaplan and Kaplan 1989); self-discovery, confidence, and well-being (Hinds 2011); self-insight and expansion of the “self” (Kaplan and Talbot 1983; Greenway 1995); and personal and interpersonal (social) development (Hine et al. 2011).

While past research confirming the restorative and psychological benefits attributable to wilderness experiences is persuasive, little work has been done on plotting the mechanisms responsible. A coherent and integrated approach is needed to advance the field. Identification of possible factors would increase our knowledge of the restorative value of wilderness and contributes to what Watson (2004) described as a new era of public land stewardship – stewarding the relationship between people and wilderness. Understanding those relationships and their influences allows managers to manage for their protection. In this article, a multidimensional conceptual framework is proposed – the wilderness experience pathway schema (WEPS) (Figure 1) – potentially causal to explaining the “psychological wilderness response.”


Publication title

International Journal of Wilderness








School of Geography, Planning and Spatial Sciences


Fulcrum Publishing

Place of publication

United States

Rights statement

Copyright 2017 The WILD Foundation

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Other environmental management not elsewhere classified

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