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Crowding, Conflict, and Social Norms

Crowding and conflict are among the most intractable problems faced by recreation mangers. Crowding and conflict arise from the social encounters and interactions among recreationists ranging from basic competition for space (e.g., crowding) to conflicts between forms of activity and related expressions of acceptable or appropriate use. Social norms interest recreation planners and managers because they both guide individual behavior and form the basis for judgments of crowdedness and the appropriateness of behaviors and actions of other resource users. Research on crowding norms and conflict has been particularly helpful in establishing guidelines for Limits of Acceptable Change planning efforts by identifying key social impact indicators and the data required to monitor them.

Selected Publications

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  • Watson, A. E., Niccolucci, M. J., & Williams, D. R. 1994. The nature of conflict between hikers and recreational stock users in the John Muir wilderness. Journal of Leisure Research, 26: 372-385.
  • Williams, D. R. 1993. Research Update: Conflict in the great outdoors. Parks and Recreation, pp. 28-30, 32, 33-34, 122.
  • Roggenbuck, J. W., Williams, D. R., & Watson, A. E. 1993. Defining acceptable conditions in wilderness. Environmental Management, 17, 187-197.
  • Knopf, R. C., Graefe, A., & Williams, D. R. 1993. Defining appropriate recreation uses for a publicly managed river recreation environment. In Proceedings of the 1992 Northeastern Recreation Research Symposium (USDA Forest Service, General Technical Report NE-176, pp. 146-152). Radnor , PA: Northeastern Forest Experiment Station.
  • Watson, A. E., Niccolucci, M. J., & Williams, D. R. 1993. Hikers and recreational stock users: Predicting and managing recreational conflicts in the wilderness. (USDA Forest Research Paper INT-468, 35p.). Ogden, UT: Intermountain Research Station.
  • Carr, D. S., & Williams, D. R. 1993. Understanding diverse recreationists: Beyond quantitative analysis. In P. Gobster (Ed.), Managing Urban and High-Use Recreation Settings (USDA Forest Service General Tech. Report, NC-163, pp. 101-106). St. Paul, MN: North Central Forest Experiment Station.
  • Williams, D. R., Roggenbuck, J. W., Patterson, M. E., & Watson, A. E. (1992). The variability of user-based social impact standards for wilderness management. Forest Science , 38 , 738-756.
  • Williams, D. R., Roggenbuck, J. W., & Bange, S. P. (1991). The effect of norm-encounter compatibility on crowding perceptions, experience and behavior in river recreation settings. Journal of Leisure Research , 23 , 154-172.
  • Roggenbuck, J. W., Williams, D. R., Bange, S. P., & Dean, D. J. (1991). River float trip encounter norms: Questioning the use of the social norms concept. Journal of Leisure Research , 23 , 133-153.
  • Watson, A. E., Williams, D. R., & Daigle, J. J. (1991). Sources of conflict between hikers and mountain bike riders in the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration , 9 (3), 59-71.


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