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This exceptional volume analyzes the intricate roles interest plays in cognition, motivation and learning, and daily living, with a special focus on its development and maintenance across life domains. Leading experts discuss a spectrum of interest ranging from curiosity to obsession, and trace its functions in goal-setting, decision-making, self-regulation, and performance. New research refines the current knowledge on student interest in educational settings and the social contexts of interest, with insights into why interest levels change during engagement and in the long run. From these findings, contributors address ways to foster and nurture interest in the therapy room and the classroom, for optimum benefits throughout life. Among the topics covered: · Embedding interest within self-regulation. · Knowledge acquisition at the intersection of situational and individual interest. · The role of interest in motivation and engagement. · The two faces of passion. · Creative geniuses, polymaths, child prodigies, and autistic savants. · The promotion and development of interest. A robust guide to a fascinating area of study, The Science of Interest synthesizes the field's current knowledge of interest and indicates future directions. Its chapters contribute depth and rigor to this growing area of research, and will enhance the work of researchers in education, psychologists, social scientists, and public policymakers. © Springer International Publishing AG 2017. All rights reserved.
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Chapters (11)

This chapter examines contemporary theories of interest highlighting some of the issues and questions that require further investigation. A major challenge for contemporary theories and perspectives on interest is the identification of basic processes operating when interest is activated. The dynamics of processes that distinguish situational interest from individual interest, and interest from interests, are examined. In particular, the Four-Phase Model of Interest Development (Hidi and Renninger, Educ Psychol 41(2):111–127, 2006) and Silvia’s (Exploring the psychology of interest. Oxford University Press, New York, 2006) appraisal theory of interest and interests are explored. Developmental implications of these theories are also examined. Particular attention is given to identifying different perspectives on how immediate experiences of interest arising from environmental triggers and/or personal factors can be distinguished. Some answers are starting to emerge from research profiling affective and temporal processes and from research mapping variance in interest due to situation-specific, cross-situational, and individual interest factors. Similar emphasis on process is characteristic of theories that locate interest in the ongoing self-regulatory system that directs behavior. While recent research on interest has built a sound knowledge base, examination of the underlying process dimensions of interest experiences highlights that there are issues and questions as yet unresolved that can readily be investigated using the tools of psychological science.
When thinking about how people sustain motivation over the longer term, even for an important activity, their experience during the activity (not just why they started doing it) matters. Thus, we focus on the experience of interest and describe a model that embeds interest within a self-regulation framework. We review research that illustrates the implications of this model for individuals’ choices and actions when they are deciding whether to engage with an activity or domain (prior to engagement), engaged with an activity (during engagement), and evaluating their experience (after engagement). The research suggests that rather than certain activity features always being associated with greater or lesser interest, it is important to know whether those factors match or are congruent with the person’s goals. Moreover, individuals actively monitor and react to their experiences and take these anticipated or actual experiences into account when deciding whether to start, persist, or re-engage with an activity or related activities. This active role includes engaging with activities in ways that make them more congruent with goals (and thereby more interesting), as well as engaging with the activity in ways that makes the experience more interesting whether or not it advances progress toward the goal. How individuals engage with the activity has implications for performance as well as subsequent evaluations of performance and of interest by one’s self and by others upon completion. We discuss the implications of this dynamic self-regulatory model for understanding “effective” regulation, as well as how this perspective can contribute to our understanding of ostensible group-based differences in interest in certain domains (e.g., gender differences in STEM interest).
In this chapter, we review research demonstrating the role of interest in motivation and engagement. First, we discuss the psychological experience of interest, examining how attention and affect shift during a state of interest. Here, studies suggest that, on the one hand, interest is often associated with narrowed attention, eliciting focused engagement, such as when one experiences a state of flow. On the other hand, interest is also linked to broadened attention, eliciting exploratory engagement. We then discuss the implicit theories people hold about interests—whether interests are believed to be inherent and fixed versus able to develop and grow. Recent research suggests that believing interests are developed (vs. fixed) increases interest in new areas and enables people to respond adaptively to motivational challenges by buffering them against a loss of interest when a new activity becomes difficult. Next we review research on how interest affects task performance and persistence, and consider the roles of focused and exploratory modes of engagement. Finally, we examine interest as an outcome of engagement, discussing processes ranging from cognitive dissonance to social interactions. Together, the research reviewed in this chapter converges to highlight the multiple means by which interest is powerfully linked to human motivation and engagement.
The objective of this chapter is to illuminate the role of interest in knowledge acquisition. In this chapter, we make a distinction between situational interest and individual interest and explain how both are related to knowledge. We will argue that the relations between these three concepts are at the heart of the education endeavor. We present empirical findings showing that situational interest is a causal factor in the acquisition of knowledge. Individual interest is shown to be a by-product of knowledge and a causal factor in the emergence of situational interest. In the concluding paragraphs, we will propose a model that integrates our findings and present directions for future research.
Concepts related to interest, curiosity, and learning motivation appear in a wide swath of scholarship. This chapter develops a perspective on curiosity that is grounded in modern models of motivation and emotion. A functional approach seeks to understand human curiosity in terms of the functions it serves for near-term adaptation and long-term human development. I suggest that curiosity serves three related functions: (1) it motivates people to learn for its own sake; (2) it serves as a counterweight to anxiety, which motivates avoiding new things; and (3) it serves as a counterweight to enjoyment, which motivates sticking with tried-and-true sources of reward. The chapter ends by considering some definitional issues (such as whether “interest” and “curiosity” are different states), exploring relationships between curiosity and other emotional states (e.g., surprise, confusion, and awe), and examining individual differences related to curiosity.
The Four-Phase Model of Interest Development is currently the most frequently used theoretical underpinning of research on interest. Under this model, situational interest can designate two very different phenomena: state interest and less-developed interest. While state interest is an experience of interest in the moment, less-developed interest describes individuals who are in the initial phases of a developing interest. This chapter shows that researchers have implicitly embraced these different meanings, which have led to two different lines of research. To foster conceptual clarity, the chapter promotes using “state interest” and “less-developed interest” as standard terminology instead of “situational interest.” This seems to be the more parsimonious and less ambiguous option.
Individual interest is a relatively enduring motivation to acquire knowledge and experience within a particular domain for the purpose of having that knowledge and experience. As such, the decision to select tasks within a domain of individual interest is essential to its nature. This chapter lays out a theoretical causal model that attempts to explain how the components of individual interest—stored knowledge and stored value—put into motion other key processes that lead to the selection of domain-relevant tasks. These key processes have been developed in somewhat diverse research traditions, and they include desired possible selves, mastery goals, implicit and explicit goal schemas, and level of construal, among others. All of these processes focus on how experiences with the domain contribute to the developing self-concept. Moreover, once task engagement begins, these key processes can also support task engagement in the moment because they promote individuals’ willingness and ability to care about doing well, perceive themselves as sufficiently competent, and become absorbed in the task. Finally, we speculate about how memories of past task engagement contribute to the recognition of a domain of individual interest as a feature of the self.
Although the construct of passion goes back to the early times of philosophers, it has been largely neglected in contemporary psychology until recently. Passion deserves our attention because it reflects a reality for a majority of individuals in a variety of cultures and leads to important life outcomes. In this chapter, I address a number of issues. First, I discuss the concept of passion and in so doing introduce the Dualistic Model of Passion that my colleagues and I have developed. I also present a brief history of the passion concept and compare it to interest and highlight similarities and differences between the two constructs. Second, I review initial research on passion followed by research on the development of passion distinguishing between the factors involved in the initial and the ongoing development of passion. I then review research on the effects of passion for a number of outcomes. Finally, I end the chapter with some concluding thoughts and suggestions for future research.
The impact of interests and obsessions is examined with respect to four types of exceptional personal performance: the creative genius, the polymath, the child prodigy, and the autistic savant. This examination entails seven influential factors: (a) domain-specific expertise, deliberate practice, and the 10-year rule; (b) the genetic and environmental foundations of interests and obsessions; (c) openness to experience, divergent thinking, and cognitive disinhibition; (d) inter- and intradomain versatility; (e) general intelligence; (f) asymmetrical development; and (g) early versus late bloomers. By combining the four types with the seven factors, it becomes evident that the developmental connection between creative achievement and interests or obsessions is extremely complex.
It is tempting to consider the development of interest as an intra-individual process. That is, whether a person becomes interested in a topic can be attributed mostly to individual differences in temperament and personality characteristics. However, motivation in general, and interest development in particular, is also a social phenomenon that may be influenced by one’s interactions with people while engaging in the activity of interest. In this chapter, we first outline the role of perceived value in the development of interest. Second, we review a program of research designed to enhance interest by facilitating perceptions of value for an activity. Third, we discuss how other people in our lives both directly and indirectly influence value and, as a result, the development of interest. Although the majority of the extant research literature is focused on direct interventions to influence value, and thereby interest, we outline several indirect pathways through which the social context can also contribute to an individual’s perception of value. We encourage researchers to explore the direct and indirect influences of the social context on value through both observational and experimental studies so that we can discover additional mechanisms that help explain how interest develops.
The present chapter explores the hypothesis that an important influence on interest is the perceived or subjective social context in which a task is completed—the perception of the relationship between the self, a task, and other people engaged in the task. We call this the triadic relationship in which a task is completed. We theorize that this triadic relationship is a key driver of interest from early in life, and sets the stage for the development of interest into childhood and adolescence. Specifically, we hypothesize that when people perceive themselves to be connected to others engaged in a task, or when they see themselves as working with others on a task rather than separately from others, this will inspire greater interest. In the present chapter, we review theoretical and empirical evidence supporting this hypothesis from both developmental and social psychology. We then map out the implications of this insight for interventions to improve individuals’ interest and academic performance.
... What mindset contributes to this type of integrative thinking? To answer this question, we considered the beliefs people hold about the nature of interest, as interest can intrinsically motivate people to learn about new topics and fields (see Fredrickson, 1998;O'Keefe & Harackiewicz, 2017;Renninger & Hidi, 2015;Silvia, 2006). If people are open to the possibility that they could experience interest, and potentially see some value, in topics outside of their well-established interests, they may be more likely to explore those outside areas and see how they connect with their established interests. ...
... Why? Interest can increase learning (see O'Keefe & Harackiewicz, 2017;Renninger & Hidi, 2015;Silvia, 2006 for reviews). Research has shown that interest is associated with deeper processing of new information (Schiefele & Krapp, 1996), increased task performance (e.g., O'Keefe & Linnenbrink-Garcia, 2014), and higher course grades (e.g., Harackiewicz et al., 2008;Hulleman & Harackiewicz, 2009). ...
... The present studies also advance our scientific understanding of interest processes. In recent decades, research on interest has surged (see O'Keefe & Harackiewicz, 2017), yielding important insights into the different phases of interest, from curiosity (e.g., Kashdan, Rose, & Finchman, 2004;Silvia, 2017) to passion (see Vallerand, 2015), from situationally-triggered to well-developed individual interest (see Hidi & Renninger, 2006), and into the function of interest for learning and exploration, self-regulation, and motivation (see Fredrickson, 2001;Izard, 2013;O'Keefe & Harackiewicz, 2017;O'Keefe, Horberg, & Plante, 2017;Tomkins, 1962). Little work, however, has considered how beliefs about the nature of interest might shape how people think and behave. ...
Innovations often arise when people bridge seemingly disparate areas of knowledge, such as the arts and sciences. What leads people to make connections that others might miss? We examined the role of implicit theories of interest-the belief that interests are relatively fixed (a fixed theory of interest) or developed (a growth theory of interest) among people with established interests either in the area of arts or sciences. A stronger growth theory predicted that participants spontaneously noticed more stimuli from the area outside their interests (Studies 2 and 3) and generated better integrative ideas (Study 1). Furthermore, they were more likely to generate ideas that bridged the arts and sciences (Study 2), which was also found after inducing fixed or growth theories, establishing causality (Study 3). Finally,perceived utility of the outside area mediated this relation (Study 4). These results suggest that a growth theory may be important for integrative thinking and innovation across traditional disciplinary boundaries.
... This is in line with the study stating that there was a positive perception and interest in sports massage among sports coaches in East Kalimantan (16). Interest refers to feelings of deep pleasure and passion for something, (17). There are two factors influencing interest, namely: Intrinsic factors, namely innate nature and Extrinsic factors including the environment, family and surrounding community. ...
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Introduction: Currently, many studies have been carried out on foot massage that are recommended as one of the complementary nursing interventions. However, the reality in the field of foot massage action has not been widely conducted by nurses. Therefore, researchers are interested in investigating nurses’ perceptions related to nurses’ interest in performing foot massage nursing actions. The purpose of this study was to determine the extent of the relationship between nurses’ perceptions and interests in carrying out foot massage actions in the inpatient room of Muhammadiyah Hospital Bandung. Methods: The correlational quantitative descriptive study with a cross sectional approach was conducted on 40 nurses using total sampling. The instrument used in this study was questionnaire. The data was analyzed using univariate analysis of the frequency distribution while bivariate analysis used Spearman rank. Results: The results of this study indicated that nurses’ perceptions of foot massage were in the good category, while nurses’ interests in carrying out foot massage actions were in the high category. The results of statistical tests indicated a relationship between nurses’ perceptions of foot massage and nurses’ interest in carrying out foot massage actions (p-value = 0.000). Conclusion: There was a significant relationship between nurses’ perceptions of foot massage and nurses’ interest in conducting foot massage actions. Thus, the hospital needs to be facilitated so that nurses are able to carry out foot massage as an independent nursing action in providing nursing interventions.
... This result might be due, at least partially, to low prior knowledge of the topic in question, leading participants to rate their level of interest inaccurately. In addition to an affective component related to emotional engagement in an event or activity, interest has a cognitive component related to the knowledge a person brings to the activity and other aspects of cognitive functions (O'Keefe & Harackiewicz, 2017). However, another possibility suggested by our in-depth analysis of interest in relation to sourcing is that this construct needs to be measured at the situational level or that behavioral indicators need to be used. ...
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This article reviews how individual differences have been conceptualized and researched within the area of multiple document literacy, in particular the extent to which proposed relationships between individual differences and the multiple document literacy process of sourcing have been supported by the empirical research. The findings showed that although the majority of the individual differences included in theoretical models of multiple document literacy have been researched, the empirical backing of proposed relationships is rather ambiguous. Still, in-depth analyses of the most researched individual differences in relation to sourcing revealed some interesting and interpretable patterns. Further, the review suggested that relationships between individual differences and sourcing may vary not only with the way sourcing is measured but also with the domain or topic addressed in the reading materials. We discuss the current status of research on individual differences in the context of multiple document literacy with a focus on sourcing and suggest potential avenues for further clarifications.
... Given the strong motivational properties of interest (e.g., O'Keefe & Harackiewicz, 2017;Renninger & Hidi, 2015;Sansone & Harackiewicz, 2000), the SRM model proposes that the experience of interest is embedded within the process of goalstriving and essential to maintaining motivation over time. The problem that individuals must solve is that many of the tasks needed to reach goals are not initially or continually interesting. ...
... Firstly, the perception of OCC is approached in terms of its interest for both parties. The study of interest in educational settings is now a mature field of research (O'Keefe and Harackiewicz 2017;Silvia 2006). Interest has been widely referred to as a specific relationship between an individual and his/her environment implying a readiness to engage in interestrelated tasks activities (Krapp, 1999), and in "particular content such as objects, events, or ideas" (Hidi and Renninger 2006, p. 112). ...
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The study looks into the problem of student–faculty communication. It addresses the issue of claimed scarcity of such interaction that exists despite the recognized benefits it can bring to students and instructors. It is suggested that examination and comparison of the participants’ interest and actual engagement in out-of-class communication (OCC) may shed light on this. Two populations from a university in Russia: 148 students and 35 instructors, were analyzed to measure their overall interest and engagement in OCC. The paper also addressed the question whether the studied populations are interested and engage in the same types of OCC. The results demonstrate that the reported overall interest in OCC was higher than the actual engagement in it among both groups of the respondents. Besides, students and faculty chose different types of OCC as most interest evincing and most frequently practiced. The research outcomes may help the parties concerned (scholars, teaching staff, educational managers and students) enhance understanding of the nature of OCC and its specifics and consider ways of harmonizing it in the best interests of all stakeholders.
... En effet, plusieurs chercheurs choisissent de mesurer la motivation exclusivement par l'intérêt que les élèves entretiennent envers une tâche ou un domaine (p. ex., l'intérêt en mathématiques et en langue; voir Hulleman et Harackiewicz, 2009 Harackiewicz, 2017;Renninger et Hidi, 2015;Schiefele, 2009). Bien qu'un intérêt individuel accru soit souhaitable puisqu'il favorise l'engagement et la persévérance scolaires (O'Keefe, Horberg, et Plante, 2017), les intervenants scolaires ont peu d'emprise sur ce type d'intérêt. ...
In school, the importance of motivation to promote achievement is well-recognized. Conceived as what moves people to act and pursue a goal, achievement motivation was studied in light of diverse theoretical approaches. However, these approaches provide distinct but complementary conceptions of achievement motivation, which may make the construct harder to understand, especially for non-experts. This article offers a theoretical review of the three dominant theories of school motivation, namely expectancy-value theory, achievement goal theory, and self-determination theory. It also highlights similarities between each theory and proposes an integrative model to better conceptualize the construct of school motivation.
... The first step involves making 'getting students interested' a curricular goal. Once educators do this and begin searching for strategies to make this possible, they can rely on a rich and constantly growing literature describing interest development (recent book-length examples; Renninger & Hidi, 2017;O'Keefe, & Harackiewicz, 2017). In addition, there are a growing number of publications suggesting practical strategies for enhancing students' interest development across all levels of education (e.g., Harackiewicz, Smith, Priniski, et al., 2016;Renninger et al., 2014;Hulleman, Godes, Hendricks, Harackiewicz, 2010). ...
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Motivations-beliefs for learning and their relationship to instructional experiences are a poorly understood aspect of higher education. Notably, interest is an individual difference that both researchers and educators alike believe should be supported. However, this support is too often relegated to the craft of instruction. To be enhanced broadly, interest must be considered from a scientific perspective. In this study the longitudinal connections between students' domain/course-level interest, the instruction students' experienced, students' exam scores and attendance were assessed. First-year university students in Japan (n=1000,Female=271) participated in the study. Students completed surveys at three time points across one semester of study. Students' initial domain interest presented medium-to-large ßs with instructional experiences, future course interest, and exam scores, and positive instructional experiences (autonomy-supportive and structuring). Future course interest presented medium-ß for course attendance. Small relationships were observed between students' sex and their instructional experiences. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed. OPEN ACCESS EPRINT------->
Are there cultural differences in the extent to which people believe they should follow their passion when pursuing a career? Three experiments demonstrated that people from the U.S., which is a more independent culture, evaluate pursuing a passion as a career more favorably than those from Singapore, a less independent culture. When evaluating others who decided to pursue a passion (vs. a non‐passion) as a career, Americans were more likely than Singaporeans to endorse this decision, and to expect subsequent positive outcomes, such as future success and fulfillment (Studies 1–3). This difference was due to Americans’ stronger belief that passions are inherently motivating (Studies 1 and 2), and to Singaporeans’ stronger belief that passions can be problematic at times, such as when they conflict with obligations (Studies 2 and 3). Moreover, the extent to which participants pursued a passion as a career in their own lives predicted their life satisfaction more strongly for Americans than for Singaporeans (Study 3). These findings challenge the idea that pursuing a passion is a universally valued career philosophy, and instead, suggest that it is culturally constructed.
Too often, students fall short of their potential. Although structural and cognitive factors can contribute to this underperformance, how students subjectively construe themselves and their educational contexts can also play significant roles. Social-psychological interventions can increase student motivation, resilience, and achievement by altering these construals. To provide general recommendations for their implementation, we focus on interventions that address common student concerns, which stem from maladaptive beliefs that (a) intelligence cannot be improved; (b) some academic topics are uninteresting and personally irrelevant; (c) learning is an unplanned, passive activity; and (d) others think that “people like me” do not have the potential for success. These interventions tend to be relatively brief, easily implemented, highly scalable, and low in cost, time, and labor. Through a partnership of psychological scientists and practitioners, these carefully contextualized, theory-driven interventions can help students achieve their potential.
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