Choosing Restful and Relaxing Occupations

Publication Date


Document Type


Publication Title

Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Occupation: USA (SSO:USA)

Conference Location

Lexington, KY


Statement of Purpose: Occupations are chosen for many reasons. Each occupational choice has unique juxtapositions of personal characteristics, including sensory processing characteristics. The purpose of this study was to understand the connections between the experiential characteristics of occupations identified as restorative and sensory processing characteristics.

Methods: This study is a secondary analysis of data collected using two pre-existing tools, the Daily Occupational Experience Survey (revised) (DOESr) and the Adult Sensory Processing Scale (ASPS). Respondents were asked to choose a preferred/pleasurable occupation and complete the two questionnaires. Previous analysis of the DOESr, a 31-item assessment that focuses on the experiential characteristics of preferred occupations, yielded five factors: Restoration, Mastery, Ludos/Adventure, Heighten Awareness, and Creativity. Restoration was linked to the experiences of relaxing, pleasurable, engaged for the self and providing freedom. Analysis of the ASPS, a self-reported assessment tool targeting sensory processing and arousal, resulted in 11 factors associated to over-and under-responsiveness to specific sensory experiences. In order to understand the links between occupational choices and sensory processing, in this study we used cluster analysis on data collected from 451 adults who completed both the DOESr and the ASPS.

Results: The results from cluster analysis revealed six clusters, similar to the five factors previously identified in DOESr, three of these clusters will be discussed as they relate to the topic of this conference. Participants clustered into the restorative cluster presented increased sensitivity to tactile sensations and high anxiety/arousal levels. While participants who sought intense and challenging occupations, they showed proprioceptive seeking characteristics. And a third group of people who preferred creative occupations, did not show distinct sensory processing characteristics.

Implications to Occupational Science: This study establishes links between experiential characteristics of chosen occupations and personal characteristics including sensory processing. Understanding the motivations leading to occupational choices (choice of restorative and other occupations) is a central theme in OS.

Discussion: Although the link between choice of occupation and sensory processing has been theorized, this is the first study that used statistical analysis with a large number of participants to establish associations between occupational choices and sensory processing preferences. Future studies could further explore how people value restorative activity and its experimental characteristics related to sensory processing by personal characteristics such as gender, culture, and personality, etc.


Occupational Therapy