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Exploring the Psychology of Interest$
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Paul J. Silvia

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195158557

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195158557.001.0001

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What Is Interesting?

What Is Interesting?

(p.31) 2 What Is Interesting?
Exploring the Psychology of Interest

Paul J. Silvia

Oxford University Press

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

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