USDA Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Research Station
Pacific Southwest
Research Station

800 Buchanan Street
Albany, CA 94710-0011
(510) 883-8830
United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.

Research Topics

Recreation: Communication

Gifford Pinchot National Forest: Evaluation of International Symbols

The goal of this research was to evaluate the comprehension of International Symbols (graphical symbols depicting ideas without words) on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest (GPNF) in Washington State. Data were collected from 214 recreationists at day-use sites. Survey teams from Oregon State University at Corvallis collected data under a cooperative agreement. The International Symbols selected included those from readily available on-line sources. Each unique response for the symbols was coded for level of correctness by two independent coders using the International Standards Organization standard adapted for this study. There were seven categories into which judges placed responses: 1) correct understanding of the symbol is certain; 2) correct understanding of the symbol is likely; 3) correct understanding of the symbol is marginally likely; 4) the meaning which is conveyed is the opposite to that intended; 5) the response is wrong; 6) the response given is "do not know"; and 7) no response is given. Any disagreement in coding was resolved by a third independent coder.

The typical GPNF visitor was male, 47 years old with 15 years of education, and white. Most visitors were recreating with family and/or friends and most were visiting the site for the first time. Typical activities were sightseeing, relaxing, driving for pleasure, hiking, picnicking, and camping.

Thirteen of the 20 symbols in the study were considered well-understood, that is, there was a high percentage of respondents who correctly comprehended them. At least two-thirds of respondents were able to name the activity/facility to which the symbol was referring [these were symbols for Fishing, Litter Container, Swimming, Hiking Trail, Rowboating, Group Picnicking, Camping (Tent), Campfire, Hunting, All-Terrain Vehicles, Drinking Water, Pets on Leash, and Information]. These need no further management action. The two moderately understood symbols probably need modification to clarify the intended message--perhaps these should only be used if there is accompanying text (these were Amphitheater and Wading). Most of the respondents did not understand the intended message of these five symbols:

International sign: Interpretive Trail
International sign: Winter Recreation Area
International sign: Fish Hatchery
International sign: Natural Study Area
International sign: Environmental Study Area
Study Area

The five misunderstood symbols may require major modification or discontinued use on the GPNF.

Research conducted by:
Last Modified: Aug 29, 2016 11:03:45 AM