An effective protected area system is essential for the long-term conservation of Myanmar's biodiversity. This study examined the attitudes of 2915 residents in 97 communities around three protected areas (PAs) in upper Myanmar: Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park in the western mountains, Htamanthi Wildlife Sanctuary in the hills bordering the Chindwin and Uru rivers, and Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary in the central dry zone. Logistic regression indicated a positive attitude toward the PAs was most highly correlated with a perception of conservation benefits and benefits resulting from management of the areas. Attitude was also significantly correlated with a perception of extraction benefits, conflicts with PA staff and crop damage by wildlife. Socioeconomic variables were less powerful than perceptions in predicting attitude and, unlike perceptions, their effects varied among the areas. The much greater effect of perceptions, especially positive ones, on people's attitudes indicates that understanding perceptions is important to improving the relationship between local residents and these PAs. This finding underscores the fact that a focus on conflicts to understand people's attitudes toward PAs may undervalue or miss critical positive perceptions that people hold. Understanding local residents' perceptions of PAs makes possible the creation of strategic, place-based management strategies that build on people's positive perceptions and mitigate their negative perceptions.