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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A behavioural study of human responses to the arctic and antarctic environments Mocellin, Jane Schneider Pereyron


This is a study of human response to the Arctic and Antarctic environments. It is based on two sources of data: the content analysis of original diaries of polar explorers, and the behavioural evaluation of contemporary crews in polar locations. In the latter, four polar stations were chosen, two in each polar region with a total of fifty-five experimental subjects. Twenty-seven other subjects acted as controls for both polar regions: a northern control group located at a semi-isolated site in Canada, and the southern group located in an Argentinian city. Methods applied in this research included the design and coding of categories which were content analyzed from the original diaries of explorers, and on-site procedures. On-site procedures included psychometric material, participant-observation reports and unstructured interviews. Fifteen behavioural measures within the domain of personality, perception of the environment, affection, social stress and community behaviour were administered. It was hypothesized that the human response would be similar in both polar regions because of environmental and sociological similarities, and that the polar setting would affect men and women in a negative way. Results showed that: (i) the polar environment is not perceived as stressful by the crews - a low anxiety state across both polar regions was found, (ii) traumatic experiences of the explorers had led to the perception of the environment in a negative perspective - yet the winter seemed to be a relaxing phase for the crews rather than stressful, (iii) personnel stationed at polar sites may possess special characteristics which distinguish them from the majority of the population, (iv) although cross-cultural differences exist, they are not as strong as might be anticipated - the environment exerts a unifying influence, (v) differences in gender-response are difficult to assess due to the small number of women subjects, but some differences with controls were noted.

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