What Is Interesting?

Paul J. Silvia

in Exploring the Psychology of Interest

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780195158557
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780199786824 | DOI:

Series: Psychology of Human Motivation

 What Is Interesting?

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What makes something interesting? This chapter critically reviews the long body of thought on the causes of interest. D. E. Berlyne’s seminal research on curiosity, arousal, and reward is reviewed in detail. In his theories, Berlyne traced curiosity to a set of collative variables (novelty, complexity, uncertainty, and conflict) that affected curiosity by modifying arousal levels. Changes in arousal levels affected reward and preference according to an inverted U. The chapter then turns to later theories of interest: Nunnally's information conflict theory, Tomkins's emotion theory, Fowler's boredom drive theory, and Loewenstein's information gaps theory. The chapter then develops a new model rooted in appraisal theories of emotion, in which interest is caused by two appraisals: (1) a novelty-complexity appraisal (“is this complex or unfamiliar?”), and (2) a coping potential appraisal (“is this comprehensible?”). Recent experiments that support the author's appraisal model are reviewed.

Keywords: interest; D. E. Berlyne; emotion; inverted U; appraisal theories; boredom; information gaps; curiosity; arousal; novelty

Chapter.  11189 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Neuropsychology

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