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Appraisal Components and Emotion Traits: Examining the Appraisal Basis of Trait Curiosity

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Individual differences related to emotions are typically represented as emotion traits. Although important, these descriptive models often do not address the psychological dynamics that underlie the trait. Appraisal theories of emotion assume that individual differences in emotions can be traced to differences in patterns of appraisal, but this hypothesis has largely gone untested. The present research explored whether individual differences in the emotion of interest, known as trait curiosity, consist of patterns of appraisal. After completing several measures of trait curiosity, participants read complex poems (Experiment 1) or viewed simple and complex pictures (Experiment 2) and then gave ratings of interest and interest's appraisal components. The effect of trait curiosity on interest was fully mediated by appraisals. Multilevel analyses suggested that curious people differ in the amount of appraisal rather than in the kinds of appraisals relevant to interest. Appraisal theories can offer a process-oriented explanation of emotion traits that bridges state and trait emotional experience.
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Appraisal components and emotion traits: Examining the appraisal basis of trait curiosity
By: Paul J. Silvia
Silvia, P. (2008, January). Appraisal components and emotion traits: Examining the appraisal basis of trait
curiosity. Cognition & Emotion, 22(1), 94-113. doi:10.1080/02699930701298481
Made available courtesy of Taylor & Francis: http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/pp/02699931.html
***Note: Figures may be missing from this format of the document
Abstract:
Individual differences related to emotions are typically represented as emotion traits. Although important, these
descriptive models often do not address the psychological dynamics that underlie the trait. Appraisal theories of
emotion assume that individual differences in emotions can be traced to differences in patterns of appraisal, but
this hypothesis has largely gone untested. The present research explored whether individual differences in the
emotion of interest, known as trait curiosity, consist of patterns of appraisal. After completing several measures
of trait curiosity, participants read complex poems (Experiment 1) or viewed simple and complex pictures
(Experiment 2) and then gave ratings of interest and interest's appraisal components. The effect of trait curiosity
on interest was fully mediated by appraisals. Multilevel analyses suggested that curious people differ in the
amount of appraisal rather than in the kinds of appraisals relevant to interest. Appraisal theories can offer a
process-oriented explanation of emotion traits that bridges state and trait emotional experience.
Article:
One of the oldest issues in the study of emotion is the relationship between emotion and personality. Emotions
and personality intersect in many ways (Arnold, 1960; Haviland-Jones & Kahlbaugh, 2000; Lewis, 2001; Magai
& Haviland-Jones, 2002; Silvia & Warburton, 2006; Tomkins, 1979; van Reekum & Scherer, 1997;
Vansteelandt & Van Mechelen, 2006). A popular intersection is the study of emotion traits. In this approach,
research identifies individual differences in the intensity or frequency of experiencing an emotion, such as
anger, anxiety, shame, happiness, or positive and negative moods (see Watson, 2000; Watson & Clark, 1997).
Identifying and assessing emotion traits is central to understanding stable patterns of emotionality, but it is only
the first step. The study of individual differences is most powerful when it adopts a process-oriented approach
(Cronbach, 1957; Underwood, 1975). If the dynamics that create and sustain the individual differences are
known, then state and trait approaches can be integrated, thus enriching the study of both states and traits.
Appraisal theories have been successful in explaining some of the central problems of emotion psychology
(Ellsworth & Scherer, 2003; Roseman & Smith, 2001), and they have much to offer the study of emotion traits.
The present research thus uses appraisal theories of emotions to examine the psychological processes that
underlie individual differences in trait curiosity, the emotion trait associated with feelings of interest (Kashdan,
Rose, & Fincham, 2004; Silvia, 2006b, chap. 4). Trait curiosity has been widely studied, and many reliable
scales assess it (see Litman & Silvia, 2006). Like many emotion traits, however, little is known about why
curious people experience interest in response to specific situations. The present research examines the
appraisal basis of trait curiosity, and, in doing so, addresses the broader theoretical problem of how appraisal
theories inform the process-oriented study of emotion traits.
Appraisal theories and emotion traits
One of the central questions appraisal theories were developed to handle, according to Roseman and Smith
(2001), is the problem of individual differences in emotional experience. People respond differently to similar
situations, and they vary in their chronic patterns of emotional experience. Appraisal theories explain this
variability by referring to covarying patterns of appraisal (Lazarus, 1991; Roseman, 2001; Scherer, 2001a;
Smith & Ellsworth, 1985). The role of appraisals in individual differences has been recognised in past work.
Scherer (2001b, p. 383), for example, suggests that individual differences probably “massively contribute to the
variance in phenomena studied by appraisal theorists”. Nevertheless, individual differences have not received
much attention in appraisal research. Lewis (2001, p. 211) notes that it is “somewhat of a mystery why appraisal
theorists have spent so little time examining individual differences explicitly”.
One intersection between personality and appraisal that has received some attention is how individual
differences affect appraisals (e.g., Smith & Pope, 1992). In an extensive treatment, van Reekum and Scherer
(1997) outline ways in which individual differences affect emotions by influencing appraisal processes, such as
individual differences related to levels and complexity of information processing. A second intersection of
personality and appraisaland the concern of the present researchis the appraisal basis of individual
differences themselves (Lewis, 2001). Some emotion traits might be constituted by appraisals. In this case,
people are typically angry, sad, or afraid because they typically appraise situations in a manner that creates the
emotion of anger, sadness, or fear. To use trait curiosity as an example, the disposition of curiosity may be
composed of the stable pattern of appraisals that create the emotion of interest: curious people are more often
interested because they tend to make the appraisals that cause interest.
Trait curiosity and interest
The study of trait curiosity dates to the 1960s, inspired by the Berlyne (1960) tradition of curiosity research (see
Day, 1971; Litman, 2005; Silvia, 2006b, chap. 4; Spielberger & Starr, 1994, for reviews). This early generation
of research has been criticised in several reviews for poor psychometric practices (Boyle, 1983; Langevin,
1976; Loewenstein, 1994). Recently, a new generation of models has emerged (Kashdan et al., 2004; Litman &
Jimerson, 2004). Given the youth of these models, not much is known about the processes that underlie
individual differences in curiosity. To date, research has primarily correlated self-report curiosity scales with
other self-report instruments; the psychological processes that constitute trait curiosity are not well understood.1
The emotion of interest is the emotion associated with curiosity, exploration, intrinsic motivation, and
information seeking (Fredrickson, 1998; Izard & Ackerman, 2000; Sansone & Smith, 2000; Silvia, 2005c,
2006b; Tomkins, 1962). Interest is thus the emotion most closely tied to trait curiosity. Appraisals of interest
seem like a promising way of explaining trait curiosity. The appraisal structure of interest, according to recent
research (Silvia, 2005c), involves two dimensions: an appraisal of novelty-complexity, and an appraisal of
coping potential. As understood within the multilevel sequential-check model of appraisal (Scherer, 1997, 1999,
2001a), people first appraise an event's novelty, viewed broadly as appraisals of incongruity, complexity,
unexpectedness, obscurity, and uncertainty (cf. Berlyne, 1960, chap. 2). Following this appraisal, an appraisal of
coping potential assesses the person's ability to comprehend the new, complex event. Events appraised as new
and complex yet potentially comprehensible are experienced as interesting.
This appraisal structure is congruent with past research (see Silvia, 2005b, 2005c, 2006b, chap. 2). One
literature shows that the family of novelty-complexity variables affects interest (see Berlyne, 1960, 1971, 1974;
Walker, 1981); a different literature shows that appraisals of coping potential affect interest (Millis, 2001;
Russell, 2003; Russell & Milne, 1997). More critically, several direct tests demonstrate that novelty and coping
potential predict the experience of interest (Silvia, 2005a, 2005c, 2006a; Turner & Silvia, 2006). These effects
replicated for measured and manipulated appraisals, for self-report and behavioural measures of interest, and for
interest in random polygons, abstract visual art, classical paintings, and poetry. Moreover, this appraisal
structure is specific to interest (Turner & Silvia, 2006): it discriminates interest from enjoyment, a related
positive emotion (Ellsworth & Smith, 1988; see Silvia, 2006b, chap. 1, for a review).
The appraisal basis of trait curiosity
If these two appraisal components comprise the appraisal structure of interest, then the appraisal basis of trait
curiosity can be examined. According to an appraisal analysis, trait curiosity should predict interest because it
predicts appraisals. This hypothesis breaks down into two variants. First, trait curiosity might be mediated by
both appraisalsit predicts interest by predicting both appraised novelty-complexity and appraised coping
potential. Second, trait curiosity might be mediated by only one of these appraisals. It is difficult to predict
whether one or both appraisals will mediate the effects of trait curiosity. In either case, this possibility would
manifest as indirect, mediated effects of trait curiosity on interest.
A second possibility is that trait curiosity will predict interest, but not by predicting appraisals. No modern
theory of trait curiosity is rooted in appraisal theories or in emotion psychology more generally (Kashdan, 2004;
Litman, 2005; Spielberger & Starr, 1994). To the extent that they have offered mechanisms that connect
curiosity to emotional experience, these models have not proposed appraisals as an explanation. Furthermore,
research on related constructs (e.g., sensation seeking, openness to experience) has traditionally preferred
psychobiological mechanisms (Bergeman et al., 1993; Zuckerman, 1994). Thus, it isn't necessarily obvious that
curiosity would predict interest because of appraisals. This second possibility would manifest as direct,
unmediated effects of curiosity on interest.
The Present Research
Two experiments examined whether appraisal processes explain why trait curiosity predicts the experience of
interest. In each experiment, interest and appraisals were measured in response to real events. Much appraisal
research has used responses to hypothetical scenarios or retrospective reports of memorable emotions (see
Roseman & Evdokas, 2004). Stronger inferences about the appraisal basis of emotion traits can be made by
placing people in potentially emotional situations and then assessing momentary appraisals and momentary
emotional experience. In Experiment 1, people read a series of complex poems and rated their experience of
interest and their appraisals of coping potential. In Experiment 2, people viewed pictures and gave ratings of
interest and of appraisals; novelty-complexity appraisals were manipulated by presenting simple versus
complex pictures. By replicating the effects across type of interesting object (poetry vs. visual art) and across
five measures of trait curiosity, the two experiments can provide strong evidence for convergent validity.
Study 2 explored an additional intersection between trait curiosity, appraisals, and interest: do curious people
differ in the kinds of appraisals relevant to interest? Kuppens and his colleagues have recently suggested that
people can vary in an emotion's appraisal structure (Kuppens, Van Mechelen, Smits, & De Boeck, 2003). In the
case of anger, for example, people vary in whether an appraisal of high intentionality is necessary to become
angry (Kuppens, Van Mechelen, Smits, De Boeck, & Ceulemans, in press). Perhaps curious and incurious
people differ in kind, not just in amount, of appraisal. To explore this, Study 2 assessed whether trait curiosity
affected the within-person relationships between appraisals and interest.
Experiment 1
Experiment 1 was an initial test of whether appraisals accounted for the effects of trait curiosity on interest. This
experiment focused on appraisals of coping potential. Because several experiments have found that appraisals
of coping potential predict interest only when novelty-complexity is high (Silvia, 2005c), Experiment 1 held the
dimension of novelty-complexity constant at a high level to simplify the analyses. People read complex poems
and rated each poem for interest and for appraised coping potential. An appraisal model predicts that coping
potential will at least partially mediate between trait curiosity and the experience of interest.
Method
Participants
A total of 83 students60 women, 23 menenrolled in general psychology at the University of North Carolina
at Greensboro (UNCG) participated and received credit toward a research option.
Procedure
People participated in groups of two to eight. The experimenter explained that the study was about personality
and impressions of poetry. The participants expected to complete some measures of personality, read some
poems, and provide their “impressions and reactions to the poems”.
Measures of trait curiosity
Before reading the poems, people completed three measures of trait curiosity. Multiple measures were used to
avoid idiosyncrasies associated with any particular scale. All items were answered on 5-point Likert scales
(endpoints: strongly disagree, strongly agree). The scales and their psychometric properties are described in
detail elsewhere (Litman & Silvia, 2006). The Curiosity/Interest in the World subscale of the Values in Action
Inventory is a 10-item measure of trait curiosity (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). The items, which are fairly
general, have few references to positive emotional experience or to specific activities (e.g., “I find the world a
very interesting place”; “I have many interests”). The Perceptual Curiosity Scale (Collins, Litman, &
Spielberger, 2003) is a 10-item measure of curiosity associated with perceptual and sensory experience (e.g., “I
like exploring my surroundings”). The third scale was the 20-item measure of Openness to Experience from the
International Personality Item Pool (Goldberg et al., 2006). Openness to experience involves curiosity as a
central component (see McCrae, 1996, 2007; Silvia, 2006b, chap. 4).
Complex poems
Eleven poems were taken from books and journals of experimental language art. Participants read the poems in
the same random order. These poems were selected by pretesting a large set of poems; the 11 poems that
received the highest ratings on a cluster of novelty-complexity variables were selected for the experiment. For
example, one poem (Ingersoll, 1999) begins with:
Library free book night in the outside of
the woman whose house photograph apology,
little black camera; my layered noodle
hanging below sun's whereof a sliding stair,
uniforms like a fast, a liked spot in the angry confrontation.
Ratings of appraisals and of interest
After reading a poem, people rated their impressions on 7-point semantic-differential scales. Appraised ability
to understand the poem was measured with three scales: comprehensible-incomprehensible, coherent-
incoherent, and easy to understand-hard to understand. Interest was measured with two scales: interesting-
uninteresting and boring-exciting. These items have been widely used in past research (Berlyne & Peckham,
1966; Evans & Day, 1971; Silvia, 2005a, 2005c, 2006a).
Results
Data reduction
A principal-axis factor analysis found that the measures of trait curiosity, openness, and perceptual curiosity
loaded highly on a single factor. Factor scores for this factor were thus computed and used as a composite trait-
curiosity score. This enables an analysis of the scales' shared variance. The items measuring interest and the
items measuring appraised ability were averaged to form interest and ability scores. Higher values indicate
higher ratings of curiosity, interest, and appraised ability.
The path analyses were conducted with AMOS 5 (Arbuckle & Wothke, 1999; Byrne, 2001) using full-
information maximum-likelihood estimation. Several variables had skew that was resistant to transformation.
Bootstrapped estimates (resampling n=1000) were thus conducted for all parameters. The two analyses were
essentially identical, so the bootstrapped estimates are not reported. Table 1 displays the descriptive statistics.
TABLE 1. Descriptive statistics and correlations between trait curiosity, interest, and appraisals:
Experiment 1
M
SD
95% CI
Curiosity
Interest
Note: N=83. Coefficients are Pearson r correlations. All coefficients are significant, p<.003.
Trait curiosity
0.00
0.82
-1.88 to 1.88
-
Interest
3.95
0.73
1.27 to 5.32
.318
-
TABLE 1. Descriptive statistics and correlations between trait curiosity, interest, and appraisals:
Experiment 1
M
SD
95% CI
Curiosity
Interest
Appraised ability
4.04
0.67
2.36 to 5.33
.332
.573
Trait curiosity, appraisals, and interest
Path analyses were conducted to examine whether trait curiosity's effect on interest was mediated by appraisals
of coping potential. The path model is shown in Figure 1; the path estimates are standardised. In this model, the
effect of trait curiosity on interest was mediated by appraisals of coping potential. Trait curiosity significantly
predicted appraised ability to understand (β=.33, p<.001), which in turn significantly predicted interest (β=.53,
p<.001). Finally, the direct effect of trait curiosity was not significant (β=.14, p<.13). Because trait curiosity's
zero-order effect on interest was significant (r=.32, p<.003), the non-significant direct effect in the mediational
model suggests that trait curiosity affects interest by affecting appraisals of coping potential.
Figure 1. . Path model of how trait curiosity and appraised understanding predict interest in complex poetry:
Experiment 1.
Mediational predictions can be evaluated by comparing the path model to a model in which the direct effect is
fixed at zero (see Loehlin, 2004). If the models differ in fit, then the conclusion of full mediation can be
rejected. If the models do not differ in fit, however, then the conclusion of full mediation is not rejected. Fixing
the direct effect of trait curiosity on interest to zero did not lead to a significant worsening of fit, χ2(1)=2.27,
p<.131. This further suggests that appraisals fully mediated the effect of trait curiosity on interest.
Discussion
Experiment 1 suggests that trait curiosity affected the experience of interest in response to poetry by affecting
appraisals. People high in curiosity appraised the complex poems as easier to understand, relative to people low
in curiosity. As a result, people high in curiosity experienced greater interest, as expected from past research on
the appraisal structure of interest (Silvia, 2005c). It is noteworthy that appraisals of coping potential fully
mediated the effects of trait curiosity. Experiment 1 did not vary or measure novelty-complexity, however, so it
is unclear if appraisals of novelty-complexity also explain the effects of trait curiosity on interest. Experiment 2
was designed to examine this issue.
Experiment 2
Experiment 2 extended Experiment 1 in several respects. First, Experiment 2 manipulated the complexity of the
potentially interesting stimuli. Whereas Experiment 1 held novelty-complexity constant at a high level,
Experiment 2 presented pictures pretested to be low or high in novelty-complexity. This enables a look at
whether appraisals of novelty-complexity also carry the effects of trait curiosity on interest. Second, Experiment
2 used visual art instead of poetry. This enhances the generality of the inferences about the appraisal basis of
trait curiosity. Finally, two new measures of trait curiosity were included, thus assessing whether the appraisal
basis of trait curiosity is general across measures of the curiosity. As before, interest and appraisals were
assessed in response to real situations, not in response to retrospective or imagined events. After completing
measures of trait curiosity, participants viewed simple and complex pictures. They rated each picture for interest
and for appraisals of complexity and ability to understand. Past research with this procedure found that
appraisals of complexity and ability to understand interactively predicted interest (Silvia, 2005c, Experiment 3).
When complexity was low, ability appraisals were unrelated to interest. When complexity was high, however,
ability appraisals strongly predicted interest. Thus, one would expect that appraisals would carry the effects of
curiosity on interest at high levels of complexity.
Finally, Experiment 2 explored whether curious and incurious people differ qualitatively in the appraisals that
predict interest. At the within-person level, both appraisals ought to predict feelings of interest. People will
vary, however, in how strongly an appraisal predicts interest: people will have different weights for each
appraisal. Using multilevel modelling (Hox, 2002; Luke, 2004; Silvia, 2007), we can assess whether between-
person differences in trait curiosity predict the strength of within-person relationships between appraisals and
interest.
Method
Participants
A total of 122 students93 women, 29 menenrolled in general psychology at UNCG participated and
received credit toward a research option.
Procedure
The procedure was modelled on a previous study of the appraisal structure of interest (Silvia, 2005c,
Experiment 3). Participants were told that the study was about how different aspects of personality relate to
perceptions of art. As in Experiment 1, three measures of trait curiosity were used. All items were answered on
5-point Likert scales (endpoints: strongly disagree, strongly agree). The Curiosity/Interest in the World subscale
of the Values in Action Inventory (Peterson & Seligman, 2004) was included along with two new scales. The
Curiosity and Exploration Inventory is a 7-item scale that emphasises positive emotional experience and
feelings of absorption (Kashdan et al., 2004). This scale's item-content is heavily motivational (e.g., “When I
am actively interested in something, it takes a great deal to interrupt me”; “Everywhere I go, I am out looking
for new things or experiences”), following the scale's roots in a theory of curiosity (Kashdan, 2004; Kashdan &
Roberts, 2004). The 15-item Curiosity as a Feeling of Deprivation scale (Litman & Jimerson, 2004) assesses
curiosity motivated by gaps in one's knowledge (e.g., “If I read something that puzzles me at first, I keep
reading until I understand it”).
Following the measures of trait curiosity, participants viewed 12 images taken from books and journals of
experimental visual art. These were the same pictures used in past research (Silvia, 2005c, Experiment 3). All
images were black-and-white and non-representational. Each picture's complexity had been determined through
pretesting, in which a sample of participants rated several dozen pictures. Complexity was operationalised by
ratings on a cluster of novelty-complexity variables, denoted by high complexity, uncertainty, and novelty. The
six most complex and the six least complex pictures were used.
Participants viewed the pictures in the same random order. After viewing a picture, they rated their impressions
on a set of 7-point semantic-differential scales. Appraised complexity was measured with complex-simple.
Appraised ability to understand the picture was measured with three scales: comprehensible-incomprehensible,
coherent-incoherent, and easy to understand-hard to understand. Interest was measured with two scales:
interesting-uninteresting and boring-exciting.
Results and discussion
Data reduction
A principal-axis factor analysis found that the three trait-curiosity scales loaded highly on a single factor. Factor
scores for this factor were thus computed and used as a composite trait-curiosity score. After reverse-scoring as
appropriate, the two items measuring interest and the three items measuring appraised ability were averaged to
form interest and ability scores. Higher values indicate higher ratings of curiosity, interest, ability, and
complexity. The path analyses were conducted with AMOS 5 using full-information maximum-likelihood
estimation. As before, bootstrapped estimates (resampling n=1000) did not diverge from the initial analyses.
One participant was dropped as a multivariate outlier, leaving a final sample of n=121. The multilevel models
were estimated with HLM 6 using restricted maximum-likelihood estimation. The Level 1 predictors (appraisals
and interest) and the Level 2 predictor (trait curiosity) were grand-mean centred.
Descriptive statistics
Before conducting the path analyses, descriptive statistics were examined to assess the coherence of the pattern
of results. Table 2 provides the descriptive statistics and confidence intervals for trait curiosity, interest, and
appraisals. First, the manipulation of complexity was successful; people rated the complex pictures as
significantly more complex relative to the simple pictures. Second, people rated the complex pictures as
significantly more interesting and as harder to understand, relative to the simple pictures. Given that the
expected effects were found, the data were suitable for examining the appraisal basis of trait curiosity.
TABLE 2. Descriptive statistics: Experiment 2
M
SD
95% CI
Note: N=121. Response scales for interest and appraisals ranged from 1 to 7.
Trait curiosity
0.00
0.86
-0.15 to 0.15
Interest (simple)
3.73
0.74
3.60 to 3.87
Interest (complex)
4.97
0.91
4.83 to 5.15
Appraised complexity (simple)
2.53
0.89
2.37 to 2.69
Appraised complexity (complex)
5.51
0.77
5.37 to 5.65
Appraised ability (simple)
4.89
0.91
4.73 to 5.05
Appraised ability (complex)
3.82
0.86
3.66 to 3.97
Between-person analyses of trait curiosity, appraisals, and interest
Path analyses were conducted to examine whether trait curiosity's effect on interest was mediated by appraisals.
Separate path analyses were conducted for simple and complex pictures. The path model for complex pictures is
shown in Figure 2; the path estimates are standardised. In this model, the effect of trait curiosity on interest was
primarily mediated by appraisals of coping potential. Trait curiosity significantly predicted appraised
understanding (β=.34, p<.001), which in turn significantly predicted interest (β=.36, p<.001). Trait curiosity had
essentially no effect on appraised complexity; complexity had a significant effect on interest that was
independent of trait curiosity (β=.34, p<.001). Finally, the direct effect of trait curiosity was not significant
(β=.12, p<.15). Because trait curiosity's zero-order effect on interest was significant (r=.242, p<.007; see Table
3), the non-significant direct effect in the mediational model suggests that trait curiosity affects interest by
affecting appraisals, particularly appraisals of coping potential.
Figure 2. . Path model of how trait curiosity and appraisals predict interest in complex images: Experiment 2.
TABLE 3. Correlations between trait curiosity, interest, and appraisals: Experiment 2
Curiosity
Interest
Complexity
Ability
Note: N=121. Coefficients are Pearson r correlations. Numbers above the diagonal are for the simple pictures;
numbers below the diagonal are for the complex pictures. All coefficients greater than±.18 are significant,
p<.05.
1. Trait curiosity
-
.066
-.015
.270
2. Interest
.242
-
.255
.000
3. Appraised complexity
-.029
.232
-
-.314
4. Appraised ability
.344
.304
-.326
-
As before, the mediational model was evaluated by comparing the path model to a model in which the direct
effect is fixed at zero (Loehlin, 2004). If the models differ in fit, then the conclusion of full mediation is
rejected. For the model of interest in complex pictures, fixing the direct effect of trait curiosity on interest to
zero did not lead to a significant worsening of fit, χ
2
(1)=2.05, p<.16. This further suggests that appraisals fully
mediated the effect of trait curiosity on interest.
The path model for simple pictures is shown in Figure 3. Trait curiosity did not significantly predict interest in
simple pictures at the zero-order level (r=.066, p<.47; see Table 3), so there was no significant effect to be
mediated. Trait curiosity significantly predicted appraised coping potential (β=.27, p<.002), but, as in past
research (Silvia, 2005c), coping potential did not predict interest in simple pictures (β=.07, ns). Trait curiosity
did not significantly predict appraised complexity; complexity had a significant independent effect on interest
(β=.28, p<.001). The direct effect of trait curiosity was not significant. This supports findings of past research,
which found that appraisals of complexity and coping potential interactively affected interest (Silvia, 2005c).
Figure 3. . Path model of how trait curiosity and appraisals predict interest in simple images: Experiment 2.
Within-person analyses of trait curiosity, appraisals, and interest
The path analyses indicated that between-person variance in trait curiosity predicted between-person variance in
appraisals and interest. Multilevel models were then estimated to explore whether trait curiosity predicted
within-person variance in appraisals and interest. The following model was estimated:
At Level 1, interest was estimated as a function of a within-person intercept, a slope for novelty-complexity, a
slope for coping potential, and residual within-person variance. At Level 2, the intercept and slopes were
estimated as a function of a between-person intercept, a slope for trait curiosity, and residual between-person
variance. The model used people's subjective ratings of novelty-complexity rather than the pictures' binary
simple/complex coding.
Both appraisals significantly predicted interest. Interest scores increased as novelty-complexity, γ
10
=.423,
SE=0.022, t(119)=18.8, p<.001, and coping potential, γ
20
=.179, SE=0.034, t(119)=5.25, p<.001, scores
increased. These effects replicate recent within-person analyses of interest and its appraisals (Silvia, 2005a,
2006a; Turner & Silvia, 2006). Figure 4 shows a boxplot of the distributions of the within-person slopes
(estimated as empirical Bayes coefficients). Overall, there wasn't much variance in the slopes' direction: 100%
of the novelty-complexity slopes and 94% of the coping potential slopes were positive, indicating that the
slopes were in the expected direction for essentially everyone.
Figure 4. . Boxplots of the within-person slopes relating appraisals to interest: Experiment 2.
Did trait curiosity predict variability in the within-person slopes? The multilevel model found small and non-
significant effects of trait curiosity on novelty-complexity slopes, γ
11
=.021, SE=0.025, t<1, p=.42, and on
coping potential slopes, γ
21
=-.034, SE=0.037, t<1, p=.38. In short, people high and low in curiosity had the same
relationship between appraisals and interest. They differed in the amounts of these variablesas shown in the
between-person path modelsbut they didn't differ in the how these variables related to interest.
General Discussion
Appraisal basis of emotion traits
Many psychologists have emphasised the value of integrating dispositional and situational processes (Cronbach,
1957; Lewin, 1935; Underwood, 1975). Examining the psychological processes that underlie stable traits
provides a dynamic understanding of individual differences and mutually enhances the study of both states and
traits (e.g., Atkinson, 1964; Kane & Engle, 2003). In the study of emotion and personality, several appraisal
researchers have pointed out that appraisal theories have had little contact with the study of individual
differences in emotionality (Lewis, 2001; Scherer, 2001b; Smith & Pope, 1992; van Reekum & Scherer, 1997).
It is important to learn more about curiosity and interest, given that there is relatively little appraisal research
related to interest (Ellsworth, 2003; Keltner & Shiota, 2003; Silvia, 2006b). The present research thus used trait
curiosity and the appraisal components of interest as a context for examining the appraisal basis of an emotion
trait. Two experiments found that the appraisal components central to interest fully accounted for the effects of
trait curiosity on interest. Specifically, appraised coping potential fully mediated the effects of trait curiosity.
This indicates an appraisal basis of the traitcurious people appear to be curious because they are more likely
to appraise their ability to understand as high. Replicating this effect with two kinds of stimuli (poetry and
visual art) and five measures of trait curiosity suggests generality to these effects.
It is noteworthy that only coping potential mediated the effect of trait curiosity on interest. Trait curiosity
affected appraisals of coping potential, but it did not affect appraisals of complexity. This finding suggests that
individual differences in emotionality need not be founded on all of the components in an emotion's appraisal
structure. Instead, a single component or a subset of components may explain the trait's influence on emotional
experience. An emotion's trait architecture may be simpler than its state architecture. For example, people high
in trait-hostility might not be more likely to make all of the appraisals relevant to anger. Instead, they may be
more likely to make only one or two of the appraisals, such as goal incongruence and intentionality (see
Kuppens et al., 2003). This intriguing possibility deserves future research.
The study of appraisal and emotion traits illustrates the value of seeking a process-oriented approach to
individual differences. Applying an appraisal model to individual differences in curiosity enhances theories of
appraisal and theories of individual differences. Appraisal theories gain support for their contention that
interindividual variability in emotions can be understood by covarying differences in patterns of appraisal
(Roseman & Smith, 2001), a notion that has not received much research attention. This lends further support to
appraisal theories of emotion and illustrates their wide range of application. Theories of emotion traits, in turn,
benefit from the integration with theories of state emotion, which enable going beyond general main effects
(curious people will find things interesting) to making incisive, interactive predictions.
Furthermore, the present experiments extend past research on interest and demonstrate its usefulness for
studying problems in appraisal research. Appraisal research has sometimes been criticised for relying too much
on retrospective reports and hypothetical scenarios (e.g., Parkinson, 1995). Clearly, stronger inferences can be
made by manipulating the events people encounter (Roseman & Evdokas, 2004) or by measuring appraisals and
emotions as they happen in everyday life (Tong et al., 2005). The present experiments assessed momentary
feelings of interest in actual stimuli, not retrospective reports of interest or interest associated with fictional
scenarios. Because interest has a relatively small set of appraisal components and is easily measured and
manipulated, it is a useful emotion for testing appraisal predictions using in vivo designs.
Individual differences in appraisal structure
Experiment 2 explored whether interest-appraisal relationships differed qualitatively or quantitatively between
curious and incurious people. Based on recent research (Kuppens et al., in press), one could propose that
curious people are making different types of appraisals, not just different amounts of the same appraisals. Taken
together, however, the path analyses and multilevel analyses suggested that curiosity affects the amount, not the
kinds, of appraisals. Appraisals strongly predicted interest at the within-person level, but trait curiosity did not
predict variability in these within-person effects. In short, the appraisals predicted interest regardless of one's
level of trait curiosity.
At its core, this represents a null effect: trait curiosity did not predict variance in within-person relationships.
Nevertheless, this absent relationship has appeared in past research. In an earlier study (Silvia, 2005a), interest's
appraisals predicted interest for 100% of the participants, and variability in the within-person slopes was
unexplained by trait PA or NA. In an analogous study (Silvia, 2006a), experts and novices in the arts differed
quantitatively in appraisalsexperts found complex art more comprehensible and thus more interestingbut
not qualitatively. Multilevel analyses found strong within-person relations between appraisals and interest, and
expertise didn't predict variability in these relations. People do not seem to differ in interest's appraisal structure,
based on this small body of work, but this issue awaits a more comprehensive set of experiments.
Acknowledgements
I would like to thank Chris Peterson for providing the items for the Values in Action curiosity scale; Jordan
Litman for providing the items for the Perceptual Curiosity scale and the Curiosity as a Feeling of Deprivation
scale; Sam Turner for his comments on an earlier version of this paper; and Kristi Caddell, Meagan Forbis, Jim
Villano, Anna Waters, and Penny Wilson for assisting with data collection.
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Notes
1
Notable exceptions, however, include Kashdan's research on how trait curiosity affects state curiosity (Kashdan
& Roberts, 2004; Kashdan & Steger, 2007) and Litman's research on how varieties of trait curiosity affect
appraisals of uncertainty (Litman, 2005; Litman, Hutchins, & Russon, 2005).
... The strong association between fluency and familiarity leads us to propose that perceptual disfluency may evoke perceived novelty. The perception of novelty is the interpretation that something is new, unfamiliar, complex, or not yet understood (Silvia, 2005(Silvia, , 2006(Silvia, , 2008a. ...
... Given that complexity is a facet of novelty (for a discussion, see Silvia, 2005Silvia, , 2006Silvia, , 2008a, it is therefore logical to assume that perceptual disfluency or the experience of metacognitive difficulty is associated with the perception of novelty. However, no research has examined whether perceptual disfluency may serve as a trigger of novelty. ...
... For instance, Althuizen (2021) demonstrated that an aesthetically complex or novel product design does not influence liking, but may increase product appreciation via arousal and interest. In fact, an individual's perception of novelty may predict interest, regardless of how perceived novelty is measured, manipulated, or predisposed by personality (for a review, see Silvia, 2005Silvia, , 2008aSung et al., 2016a). The perception of novelty also draws a clear distinction between interest and liking. ...
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... Curiosity has been broadly defined as "the recognition, pursuit, and desire to explore novel, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous events" (Kashdan et al., 2018, p. 130). However, limited empirical investigation is available regarding work-related curiosity, despite its association with value-added outcomes such as creativity (Hagtvedt et al., 2019;Hardy et al., 2017;Hunter et al., 2016), social competency (Harrison et al., 2011;Kashdan et al., 2013Kashdan et al., , 2018Mussel, 2013), and coping efficacy (Denneson et al., 2017;Silvia, 2008). Due to the paucity of work-related curiosity research, a clear and common understanding is lacking regarding what curiosity is and how it may be cultivated and applied in the work contexts (Wagstaff et al., 2020). ...
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... Most organisations view their performance in terms of effectiveness in achieving their objectives and are driven by the market to set their goals in their performance. A Cost reduction, reaching sales levels, increasing the number of consumers, increasing market share, enhancing efficiency and quality, and producing new goods are only a few of the targets to enhance financial performance (Covey, 2004;Silvia, 2007). Innovation factors such as global information availability, technology mix, and shorter innovation cycles have become increasingly beneficial to businesses. ...
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... While their shared affinity for learning new things overlaps with I and D-type curiosity, they differ substantially in how they encourage self-directed learning. The I-type curiosity is a modest thirst for information sated by situations and positive moods such as discoveries (Hidi & Renninger, 2019;Litman & Silvia, 2006;Silvia, 2008). ...
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... Curiosity can also be interpreted as a cognitively induced deprivation resulting from (a) the perception of gaps in knowledge or understanding, (b) a desire for new information, knowledge, and experience, and (c) sensory stimuli that stimulate exploratory behavior to resolve uncertainty or experience the unknown (Loewenstein, 1994;Grossnickle, 2016;Litman, 2019). Different types of curiosity include diverse and specific curiosity (Berlyne, 1960) and state and trait curiosity (Silvia, 2008a). ...
... For example, the aesthetic emotion interest involves two appraisals (Silvia, 2005): appraising an event as new, complex, and unfamiliar (a high novelty-complexity appraisal) and as comprehensible (a high coping-potential appraisal). Interest causes an emotional and motivational state that facilitates exploration, engagement, and learning (Silvia, 2008); it reflects both the emotional and cognitive aspects of engagement (Ainley, 2012). In terms of the aesthetic emotion of knowledge, firstly, the emotions stem from people's appraisals of what they know, what they expect to happen, and what they think they can learn and understand (Silvia, 2009). ...
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... Situational interest was defined as a momentary state of interest triggered by events in a learning environment (34). Research on situational interest showed that making a lesson more interesting can improve students' learning outcomes and students tend to perform better on learning materials that interest them (35). Furthermore, researchers studied how learners appraised the "interestingness" of learning materials, particularly textbased reading materials (36)(37)(38)(39). ...
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