The NSS Bulletin - ISSN 1090-6924
Volume 47 Number 1: 49-55 - October 1985

A publication of the National Speleological Society

Caving Practices, Involvement in Caving, and Personality in NSS Cavers: A Survey Study
David E. Bunnell and Carol A. Vesely


In a survey conducted at the 1979 NSS convention, 275 cavers responded to questions concerning their caving activities, motivations for caving, and level of involvement in the sport. Four personality measures were administered with the survey, including an activity temerament, sociability temperament, thrill and adventure seeking (TAS), and experience seeking (ES). The average respondent had four years of college education, was typically involved in the sciences, had been caving about 11 years, and had been on 100-200 trips in that time. Women comprised 30% of the sample and as a group reported less involvement in caving and cave-related activities. They were more likely motivated to cave for the "beauty of the cave environment," whereas men were more motivated by "exploring the unknown."

Compared to a non-caving, age-matched group, NSS cavers scored significantly higher on ES but not on TAS, suggesting that they are attracted to caving more for the varied experiences it may provide that its 'thrill' aspect. Personality differences among cavers were also related to their caving activities. For example, sensation-seeking tendencies were associated with 'sport' rather than 'survey' caving. High TAS scorers reported visiting a high proportion of different caves as opposed to repeat visits to the same caves, whereas high ES scorers favored 'sport' and 'vertical' trips. Those scoring high on the measure of activity temperament rated caving as relatively more important in their lives than did those who scored lower on activity temperament.

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