Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Playing with Dolphins and Calling It Research: A Mixed-Methods Study Investigating Human Emotional Well-Being and Experiential Responses to Interacting with Dolphins
by Rames, Arielle Elizabeth, Ph.D., Sofia University, 2016, 211; 10237439
Abstract (Summary)

This study will help to clarify how interactions with dolphins affect people. It examines human well-being and experiential responses to scuba diving with bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus, and compares this to participation in a scuba dive without this interaction. Ninety-nine adults were split between an intervention and a control group in a mixed methods convergent parallel quasi-experimental design. Before and after the activity participants completed an emotional well-being scale (Positive and Negative Affect Schedule; PANAS) and only afterward received a researcher-designed qualitative questionnaire targeting peak experiences. For the PANAS, a t-test found a significant difference in negative affect change scores between groups, t(97) = –2.135, p = .035, d = 0.43. The intervention group experienced a larger decrease in negative affect than the control group at a small-medium effect size. Qualitative themes endorsed more by the control group are self-confidence; level of difficulty; novelty; transformation or overcoming; nature; and physical, mental, or emotional stress or discomfort. For the intervention group, more participants expressed tranquility; numinosity; and connection to nature, themselves, or the Divine. Themes mentioned approximately equally include ineffability, presence in the moment, comfort and safety, desiring to continue, good or extraordinary experience, and freedom. Twelve intervention and 9 control group participants appeared to have a peak experience, as defined by Maslow. This indicates that a peak experience during a scuba dive, with and without dolphins, is a relatively common occurrence. This study demonstrates the importance of rigorous studies in human-dolphin interaction research. Studies on human-dolphin interaction published to date have neglected to impose appropriate controls, which has led to the misattribution of all pre- to postintervention differences to dolphin interaction. Both groups have intriguing results; the presence of dolphins led to a larger decrease in negative affect and greater likelihood of tranquility, numinosity, connection, and peak experiences.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Gonnerman, Mark
Commitee: DeMello, Margo, Snow, Renée
School: Sofia University
Department: Residential Transpersonal Psychology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 79/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Psychology, Experimental psychology, Quantitative psychology
Keywords: Bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus, Emotional well-being, Human-animal interaction and bond, Mixed methods quantitative qualitative, Phenomenology thematic content analysis, Positive and negative affect schedule
Publication Number: 10237439
ISBN: 978-0-355-85950-8
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