LARNet; The Cyber Journal of Applied Leisure and Recreation Research 

A Cross-Cultural Study of Desired Psychological Benefits to Leisure of
American, Canadian, Japanese and Taiwanese College Students
(February 2002)
Carlton F. Yoshioka, Ph.D.
Ralph Nilson, Ph.D.
Steven Simpson, Ph.D.

Dr. Carlton F. Yoshioka, Professor
Arizona State University
Department of Recreation Management and Tourism
P.O. Box 874905
Tempe, Arizona 85287-4905
Phone: 480-965-5059
E-mail: .

Dr. Ralph Nilson, Professor and Dean
University of Regina
Faculty of Physical Activity Studies
Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada S4S OA2
Phone: 306-585-4876.

Dr. Steven Simpson, Associate Professor
(former Fulbright Scholar in the Department of Geography
at the National Taiwan University)
University of Wisconsin/La Crosse
Department of Recreation Management and Therapeutic Recreation.
Phone: 608-785-8216.
E-mail: .

This study compared desired psychological benefits of leisure participation in American, Canadian, Japanese, and Taiwanese college students via a sample of 449 respondents who were administered the Recreation Experience Preference (REP) scale.  Factor analysis of the REP scale resulted in domains of desired psychological benefits: achievement, nature appreciation, solitude/escape, family and thrills/fun.   Two of the five desired psychological benefit domains contributed to significant differences between the four samples of students as determined by a MANOVA procedure.  The expectation that North American students would differ from the Asian students was partially supported in the domains of fun/thrills and achievement.  Interestingly, no differences were found between the students on the domains of nature appreciation, solitude/escape and family.  More research is needed to verify the use of the REP scales and these results.

Keywords:  cross-cultural, desired psychological benefits, leisure participation


During the past two decades, there has been increased research interest in the activity of leisure1 and the importance of leisure as it impacts society.  The efforts of these scholars have made it increasingly clear that leisure represents an important cultural aspect of national and community life.  Kraus (1994) describes the role of leisure in two ways: (a) as a mirror that reflects the national character and cultural values of society; and (b) as a significant force in shaping and changing culture of a society.  One study (United Media Enterprises, 1982) reported Americans spent more than half their free time in front of their home television set that is classified as the new American Hearth or Fireplace--a center for family activities, conversation and companionship.  Unfortunately, the recent dominance of television and other media related activities reflect and influence society's values, both positive and negative.

More recently, some scholars have started to investigate the psychological need-fulfilling benefits of leisure participation.  Since the turn of this century, psychologists have been aware of the impact of an individual's job on mental health and overall life satisfaction.  In contrast, Tinsley, Barrett and Kass (1977) noted that little theory development and research has been done on the effects of leisure activity on mental well-being, work and life satisfaction.  One model utilized by current leisure scholars (Driver, Tinsley & Manfredo, 1991) is based on the theme that the benefits of leisure occur in a sequenced chain of causality, with many specific benefits (e.g., companionship, achievement or stimulation) serving as intermediate outcomes that need to be met prior to gratification of more holistic human needs (e.g., personal growth, self esteem).  From this perspective, leisure is then considered an important factor in helping people meet basic psychological needs, especially those that are not attained in work related opportunities. This study attempts to understand individual behavior as it compares the desired psychological benefits of leisure across a selected sample of North American, Canadian, Japanese, and Taiwanese college students.

Cross-Cultural Analysis Of Leisure Behavior

Empirical research has examined the variation of leisure and recreation behavior across cultural and ethnic groups for several decades (Edwards, 1981; Hutchison & Fidel, 1984; Washburne, 1978; Yancey & Snell, 1976).  Various theoretical approaches to cultural variation in recreation and sport participation have been offered, these include: (a) the socio-economic and demographic approach that connect similarities and differences of groups to social class determinants (Burdge, 1969; Harry, 1971); (b) the second approach of marginality suggests that the difference in leisure participation is explained by the differential access to recreation opportunities and resources due to lower discretionary income of certain cultural groups and the inequitable distribution of recreation facilities and resources by the public sector (Bultena & Field, 1978; White, 1975); and (c) the last approach, the ethnicity theory, proposes a set of cultural patterns of a subculture that are different from the majority of the dominant population (Edwards, 1981; Hutchison, 1987; Washburne, 1978; Stamps & Stamps, 1985).

More recently, research has turned to understanding the nature and meaning of leisure from a cultural and ethnic group perspective (Hutchison, 1988; Irwin, Gartner & Phelps, 1990).  The majority of ethnic research has focused on the black versus white racial differences.  However, little research has been published that extends and relates to the behavioral understanding of leisure of different cultures and nationalities (Allison, 1988; Roberts & Olszewska, 1989).  Studies based on a cultural perspective usually consist of comparative analyses of differences in recreation patterns between groups across different countries (Szalai, 1966; Robinson, 1967).  International studies also have examined behavior from a limited and inadequate perspective (Hantrais & Samuel, 1991).  For example, researchers from the Japanese Society of Leisure and Recreation Studies conducted a survey of the leisure and recreation related research in Japan from 1981 to 1987.  Nishino and Takahashi (1989) concluded that despite the success of the economic growth resulting in higher levels of income and greater supply of material goods, the importance of leisure and recreation in the enhancement of the quality of life of the Japanese has not kept pace.  In addition, this paper found Japanese research efforts to be descriptive and "focused on numbers--number and extent of facilities, number of participants in a given activity, number of leisure hours in a week, and so on" (p. 14).  Nishino and Takahashi (1989) recommended that future efforts be directed to enhancing the sophistication of leisure research with sociological and psychological methodologies and to address such topics as attitudes toward leisure, motivations for participation and perceived psychological benefits.

The Concept Of Desired Psychological Benefits

Early work on leisure behavior used Maslow's (1954) concept of human needs as a foundation to understanding individual behavior.  Subsequently, research on desired psychological benefit of leisure was based on the works of Lawler (1973) in industrial psychology and Fishbein and Ajzen (1975) in attitude theory and measurement.  The Fishbein and Ajzen's (1975) Theory of Reasoned Action, and later refined by Ajzen (1985) into the Theory of Planned Behavior is centered on expectancy-valence formulations of human decision-making and behavior.  Specifically, the theory of Planned Behavior deals with antecedents of attitudes, subjective norms and perceived behavioral controls--antecedents that are significant determinants of intentions and actions.  It is grounded in the theory that suggests that behavior occurs because of psychological outcomes that are known, expected and/or valued by the participant.  This suggests that people may participate in leisure activities to meet certain goals or satisfy specific needs, and that leisure activities are more of a means to an end rather an end in themselves.  For this reason, leisure behavior is believed to serve as an intervening variable in the production of benefits and enhancements of one's quality of life for individuals and society.

Driver (1977) used economic and consumer behavior theories to describe leisure behavior as problem solving behavior.  He suggested that each recreationists carries an unique set of inherent, situational and learned characteristics that influence thinking and behavior.  For example, psychological and physiological traits, available time and income, past leisure experiences, and perception of leisure opportunities were seen as characteristics that interacted to influence the desire to experience leisure.  This desire was perceived as a problem when that particular desire was not yet attained.  Driver (1977) developed 19 different desired psychological outcome domains or structures.  Each domain was developed to help identify and quantify the relative importance of the particular psychological outcome or motive.  The accepted domains include achievement, leadership, social, learning, relationship with nature, exercise, and escape.  Over the years, numerous studies have used the Recreation Experience Preference (REP) scale of outdoor recreation users and correlated it to the variables of management preferences (Manfredo, Driver & Brown, 1983), river resource setting (Knopf, Peterson & Leatherberry; 1983), and past experience (Schreyer & Lime, 1984).  These combined efforts have developed numerous desired psychological benefit scales (motives) that systematically identified the reasons for recreation and leisure participation.  These desired psychological benefit scales have been used to explain the motives behind many outdoor recreation activities.

This study examines diversity of desired psychological benefits of leisure as influenced by cultural and racial differences.  The specific definition for leisure participation included active participation in some outdoor recreation related activity that was freely chosen.  This study was accomplished through a comparative analysis of a selected sample of college students from the United States, Canada, Japan, and Taiwan.  Comparative analysis research suggests that specific psychological motivations, values and norms of different cultural or national groups are revealed through patterns of behavior expressed in games and activities (Roberts & Sutton-Smith, 1962).  The theoretical proposition assessed in this study was that the more diverse the cultural and racial attributes between American, Canadian, Japanese, and Taiwanese the more dissimilar would be the group's desired psychological benefits to leisure.



Data were obtained from a questionnaire distributed to students enrolled in introductory leisure and recreation and physical recreation courses at a large Southwestern university in the United States and University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada during the summer and fall semesters of 1996.  Student attending these courses were generally from all levels of undergraduate students and majors within the university fulfilling a general studies requirement.  Data were also obtained during the same time period from several classes from a university located in Nakajo-machi, Niigata-ken, Japan, an institution affiliated with a major Mid-Western university in the United States.  These students take courses from English speaking Japanese instructors or from visiting instructors from the United States.  The written questionnaires printed in English were not translated to Japanese, but several of the difficult words were translated prior to the final administration to avoid language problems.   The Taiwan portion of the sample was collected from three different institutions of higher learning in the metropolitan Taipei area: National Taiwan University, Chinese Cultural University and National Taiwan Normal University.  The written questionnaires were completely translated into Chinese2 and pilot tested to avoid problems in the translation process.  Of the four classes surveyed, one consisted of a freshman class in geography.  The other three classes fulfilled general studies requirements and included a wide range of undergraduate majors.


The development and validation of the desired psychological benefit scale used in this study is found in previous research based on motivation studies following the work of Driver (1977) and others (Tinsley & Kass, 1979; Virden & Knopf, 1989).  The basic intents of the REP (Recreation Experience Preference) scale are to measure the extent to which specific experiences are desired and expected from participation in leisure or recreation activities.  In this study, 24 individual items were measured on a 5-point (1) "not-at-all-important" to (5) "of-utmost-importance" scale.  The actual items comprising each scale are included in Table 2.  Over 50 empirical studies conducted by Driver and others to test the reliability and validity of the REP scale (Driver, Tinsley & Manfredo, 1991).  The reliability of the full-item scale exceeds .75, with alphas ranging from a low of .60 to .80.  In addition, the stability of the REP scale over time (i.e., test-retest reliability) was found to be consistent over time for average scales and domain scores computed across subjects at different points in time (Graefe, Ditton, Roggenbuck & Schreyer, 1981).  Tests of content validity (i.e., separate clustering and judgments about logical fits of items in clusters) made by many researchers, and content validity of the REP scales has been upheld (Graefe, et. al., 1981).  The only concern is the use of a least two or more core items per scale or subscale; problems of validity have occurred when one-item scales were used.


The data were analyzed in four steps.  First, descriptive statistics were obtained to characterize the three different samples.  Second, factor analysis was used to determine the dimensions of the desired psychological benefits of leisure participation.  Third, factor scores were computed for all the respondents, and these were used as the independent variables in subsequent testing.  Finally, MANOVA was performed using the factor scores to examine the differences between desired psychological benefits for each of the three cultural groups.

Sample Characteristics

The total sample consisted of 449 undergraduate students attending universities in North-central Japan (Tokai University), Southwestern United States (Arizona State University), Province of Saskatchewan, Canada (University of Regina) and Taiwan (National Taiwan University).  To ensure a greater degree of equivalence of the samples from the different countries, the samples were statistically matched in terms of age and educational attainment.  Students were 18 to 20 years old and were either in the second year (sophomore) or third year (junior) of school.  Table 1 represents the four samples by sex, age, marital status and year in school. Due to the administration of the survey as part of the in-class activities, no students refused to complete the questionnaire, but several respondents in each group did not answer all questions and were excluded from the study.
Characteristics of College Student Samples by Country

United States
Sex  (% male) 58 52 50 55
Age  (Mean) 25.1 20.5 24 21.6
Marital Status (% single) 96.2 99 96 98
Year in College

Independent Variables

A principal component factor analysis extraction technique was used in grouping responses to 24 items adapted from the desired psychological benefit variables based on the REP scales (Driver, 1977).  Using a minimum eigenvalue of 1.00, five domains were identified when the data were factor analyzed.  Motivational scales were created to represent each factor by including items that resulted in inter-item correlation of at least 0.40 as suggested by Driver (1977).  Table 2 contains the five variables created from the regression factor scores that were labeled achievement (Cronbach's alpha=.80), nature appreciation (.79), solitude/escape (.83), family (.72) and fun/thrills (.60).
Table 2
Motivational Scale Items as Determined by Factor Analysis
Scale Reliability
Individual items Factor
Achievement .80* 2.91** Developing skills and abilities
Being challenged
Talking to new people
Showing others I can do it
5.312 23.1
Nature Appreciation .79 3.45 Observing beauty of nature
Seeing wildlife
Seeing spectacular scenery
Having quiet time
Being in undeveloped area
2.513 10.9
Solitude/Escape .83 2.91 Getting away from other people
Getting away from civilization
Seeing few people
1.221 5.3
Family .72 3.43 Doing something with family
Enjoying family and friends
1.041 3.8
Fun/Thrills .60 3.79 To have thrills and excitement
Having fun
.871 3.8


The motivational scale item of "fun/thrill" was determined to be the most important factor, exhibiting a mean score of 3.79 on a five-point (1) "not at all " to (5) "of utmost importance" scale for all the students.  The remaining motivational scale item preferences in order of importance were nature appreciation (mean=3.45), family (3.43), achievement (2.91) and solitude/escape (2.91).

Desired Psychological Benefit Differences    MANOVA was performed to determine if differences on the five regression factor score variables were significantly related to the four groups of students.  The MANOVA procedure revealed significant differences exist among the two groups on the basis of desired psychological benefits, F(3,577) = 27.28, p < .001.  Univariate analyses of variance (ANOVA) and discriminate analyses were used to determine which desired psychological variables were responsible for the overall group differences.  The analyses indicated that two of the five variables made significant contributions to the overall group effect.  Specifically, univariate ANOVAs revealed that the variables of achievement, F(3,169) = 13.10, p < .001 and fun/thrills, F(3,169) = 22.25, p < .001, were significantly related.  The standardized discriminant function coefficients developed into two functions.  The predictor set of variables for the first function resulted in significant loading primarily in the fun/thrills motive (1.10), and negative loadings on the motives of achievement (-.27), nature appreciation (-.19) and solitude/escape (-.19).  Function 2 loaded significantly on the motives for achievement (1.02) and nature appreciation (.18).  This particular set of variables loaded negatively for family (-.14), and slightly loaded on the motives of solitude/escape (-.02) and fun/thrills (-.03).  Results are reported in Table 3.
Table 3
Univariate F and Discriminate Function Statistic
For Desired Psychological Scales
Scale Univariate F (3,169) Standardized discriminate function coefficient

Function 1* Function 2**

Achievement 13.10***
-0.27 1.02

Nature Appreciation 1.59
-0.19 0.18

Solitude/Escape 1.57
-.019 -0.02

Family 1.70
-0.02 -0.14

Fun/Thrills 22.25***
1.10 -0.03

***p< .001

* Eigenvalue=0.371
Percent of Variance=63.9
Canonical Correlation=.557
Significance Level <.001 

Percent of Variance=34.09
Canonical Correlation=.440
Significance Level <.001

The Scheffe follow-up tests indicated that Asian and North American differences were present in the domain of seeking thrills/excitement (Canadians and Americans reported a very high level of importance in this domain as compared to the Japanese and Taiwanese).  Taiwanese reported lowest importance levels for the domains of achievement, nature appreciation, solitude/escape and thrills/excitement.  Americans reported the highest importance levels for the domains of family and thrills/excitement.  Canadians along with the Taiwanese reported lowest levels of importance in the domain of family.  Japanese reported the highest importance levels for the domains of achievement, nature appreciation and solitude/escape.  One common link for interpretation of the discriminant function coefficients is the loadings for both sets of predictor variables for the motive of solitude and escape.  It seems that the motive to obtain solitude and escape is important whether it is associated with the additional motive of achievement in one function or the contrasting set of motives of seeking fun and thrills and not obtaining achievement and nature appreciation in the outdoor experience.  The univariate F values and discriminate coefficients are presented in Table 3, and the means and standard deviations for each desired psychological variable are presented in Table 4.  The results moderately support the notion that differences exist among the four samples of students after two of the five significant F value differences were found.
Table 4
Means, Standard Deviations and Scheffe Tests for
Desired Psychological Variables by Country
United States




Scheffe Test**
3.08 0.88
2.81 0.80
3.32 0.77
2.13 0.88
3.18 0.83
3.11 0.89
3.14 0.47
3.09 0.63
2.78 1.03
2.72 1.20
2.93 0.63
2.48 0.87
3.73 0.96
3.36 1.10
3.62 0.81
3.36 0.87
4.20 0.68
4.05 0.50
3.41 0.57
3.25 0.81

* Likert scale ranged from 1 (not at all important) to 5 (of utmost importance)

** US = United States
       C = Canada
        J = Japan
        T= Taiwan


This study of leisure behavior was based on a conceptual framework that suggests that cultural or national behavior attributes are expressed in subsequent variations of leisure activities.  On the basis of the research recommendation of Hutchison (1988), the purpose of the study was to determine if desired psychological benefits to outdoor recreation participation were different between Japanese, Taiwanese, Americans, and Canadians.  The findings suggest that there are differences between the North American samples and the Asian samples regarding desired psychological outcomes.  Surprisingly, the Asian groups varied significantly from the North American groups in only one psychological domain of seeking thrills/excitement.  Specifically in the case of the Japanese group, variability was found in four of the five domains of psychological preferences.  High levels of importance were found in the domains of achievement, nature appreciation, and solitude; and low levels of importance were noted in the domain of thrills/excitement.  The strong achievement motivation of the Japanese is well established by Blinco (1992), Yan and Gaier (1994) and others.  In the case of the Taiwanese, they expressed the lowest levels of importance for achievement, family and thrills/excitement.  These findings support the notion that all Asian groups are not culturally monolithic and exhibit significant differences in psychological outcomes for leisure (Nishino, Shimoyama and Konno, 1984).  Variation also resulted between the North American groups of Americans and Canadians for the preference for achievement.  Finally, the Japanese and American groups reported high levels of psychological preferences for the domains of nature appreciation, and family.  Surprisingly, Americans and Japanese are more alike in their desired psychological benefits for leisure than one would expect from groups with seemingly divergent cultural and ancestral backgrounds.  The notion that significant differences exist between North Americans and Asians was partially supported, but the findings offer an expanded view of cultural and ancestral variability that would involve similarities and differences between all four groups participating in the study.

Although a rigid survey schedule was followed, the small and particular nature of the respondents restricts the overall generalization of the results.  The homogeneous group of students from all institutions of higher learning allowed for a certain amount of control for intervening variables such as age, education, income and family life cycle.  The homogeneous nature of the student subgroup within the overall community setting, allowed for control of between-group variations in demographic variables, the within-group variations, however, may have impacted the results to where these sub-cultural groups were influenced by factors outside the university community.  Another limitation of the study was the lack of specificity of the concept of recreation and leisure.  It was assumed that the respondents understood the concept of leisure and outdoor recreation participation.  More research is needed to address these limitations.

This study supports the continued use of Driver's Recreation Experience Preference (REP) scale in cross-cultural examinations.  The factor analyzed constructs from the original 24 separate items resulted in five psychological motives of leisure behavior.  The reliability coefficients (Cronbach's Alpha) provided evidence of the internal stability of the created constructs.  Since the Japanese students understood English very well, it is assumed that the meanings of the statements were not incorrectly interpreted.  Replication of the motivational scales in other student samples would verify the overall usefulness of this instrument.  It is also assumed that the translations into Chinese for the Taiwanese sample did not change or alter any of the desired meanings or understandings used in the written questionnaires.

In conclusion, the study found that cultural or racial group variability seems to influence the underlying psychological benefits related to leisure behavior.  More research is needed to further explore the experience preference variability approach by utilizing a broader sampling of cultural and/or racial groups.


1  No single definition of leisure is accepted.  Most definitions do not clearly differentiate leisure activity from other types of human behavior.  For the purpose of this study, leisure is conceptualized as any activity that is freely chosen and pursued for its own sake--the intrinsic motivation dimension.

2  The survey instrument was translated into Chinese by Yang Chi-Cheug and Chang Ben-Chu.


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