Abseil Anxiety and Confidence: A Pilot Study


James T. Neill
Bernd Heubeck

Australian Journal of Outdoor Education,1(2), 28-30, 1995


With the increasing usage of one-off adventure activities such as abseiling, rock climbing, caving and ropes challenge courses for purposes of personal development, this calls for investigation of the psychological processes and effects of such experiences.  This study investigated the self-reported anxiety, confidence and self-perceptions of where a 10m abseil was easiest and hardiest for 19 adolescent female Outward Bound Australia students.  Self-reported anxiety levels decreased and feelings of confidence in success increased from the top to the bottom of the abseil.  Two thirds of participants reported that the hardest part of the abseil was right at the top, with the other third reporting that the most difficult part was at different parts throughout the abseil.  There was a wide range of responses to where 'the abseil suddenly seemed to get a whole lot easier'.  The most common qualitative descriptors of the abseil experience was exciting/fun, scary/frightening, and fulfilling/satisfying.  Overall, the pilot study results supported the use of abseiling as a medium for personal development because of the positive experience of encountering anxiety followed by subsequent feelings of success and satisfaction.

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  • A longer report is also available:
    Neill, J. T. (1995). Abseiling: Some psychological processes and outcomes.  Canberra, ACT, Australia: Outward Bound Australia. Full text pdf (.1mb)