Copyright © 2016 by the Józef Piłsudski University of Physical Education in Warsaw, Faculty of Physical Education and Sport in Biała Podlaska
Pol. J. Sport Tourism 2016, 23, 94-98
DOI: 10.1515/pjst-2016-0011 94
SENSATION SEEKING AS ONE OF THE MOTIVATING FACTORS
FOR PERFORMING SKYDIVING
AGNIESZKA BOŁDAK1, MONIKA GUSZKOWSKA2
Józef Piłsudski University of Physical Education in Warsaw, Faculty of Tourism and Recreation, Departament
of Tourism1, Faculty of Rehabilitation, Chair of Psycho-social Foundations of Rehabilitation and Bioethics,
Department of Psychology of Rehabilitation and Special Pedagogy2
Mailing address: Agnieszka Bołdak, Józef Piłsudski University of Physical Education, 34 Marymoncka Street,
00-968 Warszawa, tel.: +48 605102585, fax: +48 22 8651080, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Introduction. For some time, the issue of participating in high-risk sports, including skydiving, has been linked to the trait of
sensation seeking, but skydivers do not constitute a homogeneous group in terms of this factor. The aim of the study was to de-
termine the role of the need for sensation in performing skydiving and to examine whether the importance of this factor diers
depending on gender. Material and methods. The study included a total of 143 skydivers (98 men and 45 women) aged from
17 to 49 years with dierent levels of expertise in skydiving. In total, 73 respondents were categorised as novices, and 70 were
considered experts. Novice skydivers were dened as having completed no more than 10 jumps in their lives. Expert skydivers
were persons who had made at least 100 jumps in their lives and had a licence to perform skydiving independently, without
instructor supervision. The need for stimulation was measured using the Sensation Seeking Scale IV by Zuckerman, in its Polish
version by Oleszkiewicz-Zsurzs. Results. Since a high proportion of individuals with a strong need for sensation was found
among both men and women, it can be concluded that it is an important factor in primary selection in skydiving (when the sport
is undertaken), regardless of gender. Conclusions. The signicance of sensation seeking as a factor in secondary selection in
skydiving (when the sport is being performed) diers depending on the particular dimension of sensation seeking and gender.
Susceptibility to boredom is probably a signicant factor in secondary selection in women.
Key words: skydiving, psychology, high risk sports, gender, motivation
In recent years, we have observed growing interest in vari-
ous forms of activity that are associated with providing partici-
pants with strong emotions and intense experiences [1, 2]. Prac-
tising some sports carries health risks and even the risk of death.
Such activities are often referred to as extreme sports or high-
risk sports. According to the denition by Breivik, a high-risk
sport is a discipline in which one has to accept the possibility
of serious injury or death as an inherent part of the activity .
For some time, the issue of participating in high-risk sports
has been linked to the personality trait of sensation seeking [4,
5, 6]. Zuckerman described sensation seeking as the need for
new, varied, and complex experiences and the readiness to take
physical and social risk in order to meet this need . Accord-
ing to the author, sensation seeking consists of four dimensions.
The rst dimension, identied as thrill and adventure seeking,
describes the need to engage in physical activity that provides
extraordinary physical sensations, including sports such as
skydiving, mountain climbing, and scuba diving. The second
dimension, identied as experience seeking, manifests itself in
the tendency to seek cognitive stimulation by engaging in ac-
tivities that provide intense sensory experiences, including mu-
sic, art, and travel, as well as leading non-conformist lifestyles
and making friends with like-minded unconventional people.
The third dimension, disinhibition, is connected with sensation
seeking through hedonistic attitudes towards life, including
having risky sexual relationships, abusing alcohol, and gam-
bling. Inner or outer constraints do not stop individuals from
engaging in such behaviour. The fourth dimension, susceptibil-
ity to boredom, manifests itself as an aversion to monotonous
activities, as well as restlessness and impatience when a person
is feeling bored.
Sensation seekers accept risk as a possible result of provid-
ing themselves with an optimal level of arousal. They enjoy be-
ing involved in activities and situations that have elements of
novelty and stimulation and satisfy their hedonistic needs .
Such people often do not pay attention to whether their behav-
iour is socially approved . However, this does not mean that
sensation seekers always undertake activities that exceed or are
barely within the bounds of laws, social norms, or moral norms.
A satisfactory level of stimulation can be achieved by selecting
highly stimulating lifestyles and social relationships, as well as
highly stimulating professions, such as those of a Special Forces
soldier, mountain rescuer, or re ghter [7, 9, 10]. Sports activity
(skydiving, mountain climbing, scuba diving, paragliding, etc.)
also oers a socially acceptable source of intense sensations [7,
According to many researchers [9, 10, 11, 12], a strong need
for sensation is a distinguishing feature of skydivers. A study by
Bołdak and Guszkowska, however, has found this group to be
heterogeneous in terms of personality traits, including sensa-
tion seeking . It is thus worth investigating whether or not
sensation seeking is a motivating factor for undertaking skydiv-
Selection may take place already when skydiving is under-
taken. It can be assumed that skydiving training is taken mainly
by people with a strong need for stimulation. In this case, sensa-
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Pol. J. Sport Tourism 2016, 23, 94-98
tion seekers should dominate already among novices. The selec-
tion which takes place at the time of undertaking the sport can
be called “primary selection”.
Selection can also take place in the later stages of perform-
ing skydiving. This can be called “secondary selection”. People
with a lower need for sensation may discontinue a strongly
stimulating activity due to having exceeded the optimum level
of arousal . According to Breivik, due to the selection present
in risky sports, only individuals whose personalities “match”
a given form of activity will decide to continue the sport .
However, research results are not consistent with respect to this
issue. Some authors have suggested that there is a greater need
for stimulation in less experienced persons . Others have
reported that novices have a lower need for sensation: for ex-
ample, expert skydivers scored higher on the scale of sensation
seeking than novices and people who completed the skydiving
course, but then they did not jump with a parachute .
According to Zawadzki, selection through temperament
traits in risky sports is stronger in the case of women, as they
are characterised by a lower need for stimulation than men .
Sensation seeking is one of the dimensions of temperament. In
the general population, men engage in risky behaviour more of-
ten than women [7, 17]. Women who engage in high-risk sport
have a higher-than-average need for stimulation [7, 18].
Inconsistencies in the results of previous studies raise sev-
eral questions about the importance of sensation seeking in pri-
mary and secondary selection in skydiving, concerning whether
or not the need for sensation is actually a motivating factor in
skydiving, the direction of the relationship, and whether or
not the importance of this trait diers depending on gender. If
primary selection does take place, skydivers should be domi-
nated by people with a strong need for stimulation (regardless
of their level of expertise in skydiving). If the need for sensa-
tion is a factor in secondary selection, sensation seeking should
be signicantly dierent between novice and expert skydivers.
With increasing levels of expertise, the group should become
more and more homogeneous. However, selection in the oppo-
site direction cannot be ruled out. Extreme sensation seekers
may eventually stop practising the discipline due to the fact that
after losing its novelty, it ceases to be suciently stimulating
for them. If sensation seeking is an important factor in primary
and secondary selection only in women, only female skydivers
should manifest a stronger need for sensation in comparison to
the population norms, whereas female novices should be char-
acterised by a smaller need for sensation than female experts.
These dierences should not occur in men.
Material and methods
The study included a total of 143 skydivers (98 men and 45
women) aged from 17 to 49 years (mean = 30.07; SD = 7.10)
with dierent levels of expertise (number of jumps in the entire
group: mean = 333.56; SD = 636.94). The subjects were arbi-
trarily classied into one of the two groups according to their
level of expertise, after consultation with an experienced and
professionally active skydiving instructor from the Aero Club of
In total, 73 respondents were considered novices, which
means they had done no more than 10 jumps (mean = 5) in their
lives. The group of expert jumpers included individuals having
a valid Certicate of Qualication issued by the President of the
Polish Civil Aviation Authority. According to Polish law, this li-
cence is mandatory in order for a person to be able to perform
skydiving independently, and it requires passing a practical and
theoretical examination. The group of expert skydivers com-
prised 70 participants, who had done at least 100 jumps (mean
= 675) in their lives. There were no statistical age dierences be-
tween the two groups.
The research was conducted in two Polish aviation clubs (in
Warsaw and Bialystok). Participation in the survey was volun-
tary, and the respondents did not receive any remuneration. All
the respondents practised amateur skydiving and did not be-
long to sporting clubs or the national team. The research project
was accepted by the Senate Research Ethics Committee of the
Józef Piłsudski University of Physical Education in Warsaw.
The need for stimulation was measured using the Sensation
Seeking Scale (SSS) by Zuckerman  (version IV), in its Polish
version . The questionnaire consists of 68 questions that re-
quire choosing between two extremes, for example, “I don’t like
to skydive at all” and “I would love to try skydiving”. The research
tool was adapted to Polish conditions by Oleszkiewicz-Zsurzs
[19, 20]. The Polish version of the SSS-IV scale diers from the
original in that it has a smaller number of items. The theoreti-
cal variables were determined using the following scales: the
General Sensation Seeking (GSS) scale: 0-20; the Thrill and Ad-
venture Seeking (TAS) scale: 0-14; the Experience Seeking (ES)
scale: 0-15; the Disinhibition (Dis) scale: 0-17; and the Boredom
Susceptibility (BS) scale: 0-18. In the original version, the scale
has satisfactory psychometric properties . However, attempts
to adapt the tool to Polish conditions have not been completely
satisfactory; hence, one should exercise caution while interpret-
ing the results. The reliability indices of the scale (internal con-
sistency) varied from 0.77 for the Dis scale to 0.87 for the ES
scale . The diagnostic accuracy of the tool is not satisfying
according to the author of its Polish adaptation . There has
also been an attempt to adapt a newer version of the scale (SSS-
V), but its outcomes were not published, and they are believed
to have been unsatisfactory as well . Therefore, a decision
was taken to use version SSS-IV, which has been frequently used
for research in Poland. Applying the SSS scale made it possi-
ble to make comparisons between the outcomes of the current
study and the outcomes of previous research.
All statistical analyses were performed using the statistical
IBM package SPSS19 (SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL).
In order to determine the intensity of sensation seeking in
the group of skydivers, point scores were converted to the stand-
ard ten (sten) scale, according to the norms for the Polish popu-
lation. The distributions of sten scores at three levels – of low
scores (up to a sten score of 4), average scores (sten scores of
5-6), and high scores (a sten score higher than 7) – are present-
ed in table 1. In women, there was a clear overrepresentation of
high scores on all SSS scales, especially ES, TAS, and Dis (more
than half of the respondents had high scores). As far as men are
concerned, nearly half of the respondents obtained high scores
only on the Dis scale. However, regardless of gender, the pro-
portion of persons with a strong need for sensation was greater
among skydivers than in the general population.
Multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was used in
order to determine the variation of scores depending on gender
and the level of expertise in skydiving. A signicant main gen-
der eect was found for the scores of the entire scale (F = 3.306;
p = 0.005; η2 = 0.129). The interaction between group (novices
and experts) and gender reached the level of a trend (F = 2.005,
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96 Pol. J. Sport Tourism 2016, 23, 94-98
p = 0.069, η2 = 0.082). The group eect was not statistically
signicant (F = 0.027, p = 0.714, η2 = 0.027). These data suggest
that the level of expertise does not have an impact on sensation
seeking among skydivers, but the importance of this factor may
vary depending on gender.
Adjusted models proved to be signicant in the case of ES
(F = 3.468, p = 0.018, η2 = 0.070), BS (F = 2.831, p = 0.041,
η2 = 0.058), and general sensation seeking – GSS (F = 2.719,
p = 0.047, η2 = 0.055).
The analyses of individual dimensions did not prove a sig-
nicant group eect (tab. 2). The eect reached the level of
a trend in ES – slightly higher scores were found among novices.
The eect of gender was signicant only for ES, with higher
scores in women. In the case of BS, there was a signicant inter-
action between group and gender (g. 1). In the group of novices,
women were characterised by higher BS, while in the group of
expert skydivers, there were no gender-related dierences. The
level of expertise signicantly dierentiated BS among women,
and it was higher in novices. There were no dierences in BS
among men. A signicant interaction between gender and the
level of expertise was also observed in the case of general sensa-
tion seeking (GSS) (g. 2), and the direction of the relationship
was the same. There were no signicant eects of gender or the
level of expertise or any interactions between them in the case
of TAS and Dis.
Table 1. Sten scores in general sensation seeking and the dimensions of
sensation seeking for men (n = 98) and women (n = 45)
Variable Low scores Average
scores High scores
Men Women Men Women Men Women
seeking (GSS) 13% 4% 58% 58% 29% 38%
Thrill and adventure
seeking (TAS) 8% 7% 55% 33% 37% 60%
(ES) 11% 7% 47% 24% 42% 69%
Disinhibition (Dis) 13% 2% 39% 47% 48% 51%
(BS) 20% 18% 48% 42% 32% 40%
Table 2. Two-way analysis of variance (group x gender) of general sensation seeking and the dimensions of sensation seeking
Group Gender ANOVA
Novices Experts Men Women Group Gender Interaction
M SD M SD M SD M SD F p η2* F p η2F p η2
seeking (GSS) 12.21 3.23 11.77 2.75 11.77 2.84 12.49 3.30 2.67 0.105 0.019 1.30 0.256 0.009 5.66 0.019 0.039
Thrill and adventure
seeking (TAS) 11.33 2.01 10.96 2.47 11.27 2.33 10.89 2.07 0.66 0.419 0.005 0.91 0.340 0.007 0.17 0.677 0.001
(ES) 8.63 2.90 7.97 2.52 7.92 2.60 9.13 2.86 3.14 0.079 0.022 5.45 0.021 0.038 2.33 0.129 0.016
Disinhibition (DIS) 9.58 3.51 9.19 2.77 9.46 3.15 9.22 3.23 1.38 0.242 0.010 0.30 0.585 0.002 1.56 0.214 0.011
(BS) 9.73 3.59 9.46 3.25 9.34 3.35 10.16 3.529 1.76 0.187 0.012 1.32 0.253 0.009 6.50 0.012 0.045
* η2 – strength of relationship.
Figure 1. Interaction between group x gender (Boredom Susceptibility, BS)
Figure 1. Interaction between group x gender
(Boredom Susceptibility, BS)
Figure 2. Interaction between group x gender (General Sensation Seeking, GSS)
Figure 2. Interaction between group x gender
(General Sensation Seeking, GSS)
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Pol. J. Sport Tourism 2016, 23, 94-98
The purpose of the study was to determine the role of sensa-
tion seeking in performing skydiving and to examine whether
its importance diers depending on gender.
Since a high proportion of persons with a strong need for
sensation in its dierent dimensions was found among both
men and women, it can be concluded that this variable acts as a
factor in primary selection, already at the initial stage of under-
taking the sport. This has been conrmed by previous studies
in which authors found that the trait of sensation seeking is a
signicant factor that determines taking up high-risk sports .
However, the importance of the dimensions of sensation seek-
ing varies, and the biggest role is probably played by experience
seeking, especially among women.
The dimensions of thrill and adventure seeking, disinhibi-
tion, and boredom susceptibility probably do not play a great
role in secondary selection (while the sport is being performed)
– no signicant main eects of the level of expertise in skydiv-
ing were found for these factors in our study. This means that
none of these dimensions seems to be related to whether or not
a person chooses to continue practising skydiving. Experience
seeking was the only dimension that diered slightly depending
on the subjects’ level of expertise. The results of the research
carried out by Breivik et al., which suggest that experts’ need for
sensation is stronger than that of novices and those who stop
practising the sport, have not been conrmed either . It is
worth emphasising, though, that the aforementioned studies
included only men.
Experience seeking seems to be a particularly important
motivating factor in women. Compared to men, women practis-
ing skydiving are characterised by a greater inclination to seek
sensations and new experiences by engaging in activities that
provide intense sensory sensation. The direction of gender dif-
ferences in skydivers is, therefore, opposite to the direction in
the general population. The signicance of this factor was also
conrmed by the distribution of sten scores: almost 70% of the
women in the study received high scores. These results are con-
sistent with the ndings of Hromatko and Butković , who
found intergender dierences in sensation seeking. Men were
characterised by higher scores in disinhibition, while women
were characterised by higher scores in experience seeking. In
her examination of paragliders, skydivers, scuba divers, and
mountaineers, Blenner found that, compared to young men,
young women (under the age of 30) were characterised by high-
er scores in three dimensions of sensation seeking (all except
What distinguishes female skydivers is the very strong need
for experience of a mental nature and, therefore, for emotions
as well. However, data on intergender dierences in sensation
seeking in persons who participate in high-risk sports are still
divergent. A study of extreme kayakers and mountaineers did
not nd any dierences between women and men with regard
to the need for stimulation [24, 25, 26].
According to Woodman et al., the strong emotions experi-
enced during a jump may be an eective means to regulate emo-
tions in people with alexithymia . Alexithymia is described
as the inability to understand or identify emotions and to name
and express them, which leads to a lack of discharge of tension
and anxiety . Research has shown that skydivers with alex-
ithymia, women in particular, deliberately become involved in
situations connected with strong arousal and even fear [29, 30].
This is because they lose the ability to feel pleasure in any other
way than through such intense, sometimes negative feelings.
The dimension of boredom susceptibility, which manifests
itself as an aversion to performing monotonous activities and
responding to them with restlessness and impatience, may be
another potentially important factor. This dimension seems to
play a minor role in secondary selection among men: there were
no dierences in this dimension depending on the level of ex-
pertise among the male subjects in the study. In women, on the
other hand, this dimension was a factor in primary selection.
In the group of novices, women reached the same level as men
in terms of boredom susceptibility (which did not happen in
the general population). What is more, women obtained signi-
cantly higher scores. This variable is also likely to be a factor in
secondary selection in women, but working in the opposite di-
rection than expected: women who discontinue skydiving have
the highest levels of boredom susceptibility. In this respect, fe-
male novices were characterised by higher scores than expert
female skydivers. In the group of expert skydivers, intergender
dierences were not statistically signicant. Therefore, this
component of the need for sensation seems to be an important
factor in primary and secondary selection only in women.
It may be assumed that skydiving attracts people seeking
strong sensations and intense emotions. However, it appears
that in women the trait of boredom susceptibility in its ex-
treme intensity may interfere to some extent with the aspects
of skydiving that are associated with thoroughness, conscien-
tiousness, and psychological resistance. People with high scores
in BS quickly reach a state of impatience when they are forced
to perform routine, repetitive tasks that are part of skydiving
training. After the rst stage of fascination, during which many
elements are novel, such persons may discontinue skydiving
and look for new sources of stimulation. Women susceptible to
boredom to a degree similar to that in men (and higher than
that in average women) are able to satisfy their need for stimula-
tion in regular skydiving.
In conclusion, the signicance of sensation seeking in pri-
mary and secondary selection in skydiving diers depending on
the dimension of this trait and gender. The variables connected
with this trait act as primary selection factors in both genders,
but their importance is greater among women. Susceptibility to
boredom is probably a signicant factor in secondary selection
in women, though in our study it was found to work in the op-
posite direction to the one postulated by Breivik .
It should be mentioned, however, that the present study has
some limitations. One of them is a relatively small sample size,
especially when it comes to women. Men dominate among sky-
divers in Poland, so the proportion of men and women in the
study reected their proportion in the population. The second
limitation of the study is a certain arbitrariness of classifying par-
ticipants into the group of expert skydivers. In the study, persons
who had completed at least 100 times jumps were considered
expert skydivers. Nowadays, it takes much less time to make 100
jumps than before. These criteria could be changed: for example,
those who have jumped more than 500 times could be consid-
ered experts. It should also be pointed out that the conclusions
about the importance of sensation seeking as a motivating factor
were drawn somewhat indirectly through comparing the scores
of skydivers to population norms, as well as through comparing
novices to experts, but a precise determination of their motivat-
ing role is possible only in longitudinal studies.
The importance of sensation seeking as a motivating factor
proved to vary depending on gender and the component of the
trait. This suggests that further analyses should be conducted
separately for each component. It would be interesting to deter-
mine the signicance of the components of sensation seeking
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98 Pol. J. Sport Tourism 2016, 23, 94-98
in practising other high-risk sports. In particular, monitoring
them over several years would allow for an eective assessment
of the factors inuencing the decision to undertake a sport and
continue or discontinue it. Expanding research beyond investi-
gating the need for sensation seems worthwhile. Recent studies
by Barlow et al. suggest that dierent motives (the sensations of
the activity, emotion regulation, agency functions, etc.) may be
signicant in various disciplines, such as skydiving, mountain-
eering, and ocean rowing [31, 32].
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Submitted: February 4, 2016
Accepted: April 18, 2016
Download Date | 10/20/16 6:05 PM