A comparison of methodological approaches to identify components of the natural environment
Miller, Wendy Ellen
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Geography is one of many disciplines that studies how individuals interact with the world around them. This knowledge can provide new means of understanding behavior, cognitive functioning, and decision making. Wayfinding is one way that people interact with the world to navigate from one point to another. Environmental clues provide assistance in wayfinding activities. Numerous studies have occurred that look at wayfinding and spatial perception in the built environment, but very few studies have extended the methodology and principles into the natural environment. This research uses a subset of the environment based on the activity of hiking to determine what features in the natural environment are recalled and therefore deemed important. Three methodological approaches are used. The first is an elicitation-of-examples classroom survey of undergraduates. The students are asked to list terms that correspond to the phrase "______ you would see while hiking", with either 'feature', 'entity', 'thing', 'object', or 'phenomena' as the prompting word. The second methodological approach is a trail description analysis. The final methodological approach is a survey of hikers and staff members at an environmental education center in Northeastern Pennsylvania where the participants were asked to complete a mental mapping exercise. The terms generated from these methodologies are analyzed and compared to the expectations from the preference and recreation studies literature. Higher-level categories are used to complete the analysis. This research addresses gaps in the cognitive geography, environmental psychology, and recreation studies literature.