People are naturally curious

What makes people curious?

Now, if emotions come from reviews, which reviews generate interest? Essentially, it depends on the following two ratings:

  • The first is the assessment of novelty and complexity, i.e. how new, unexpected, complex, difficult to understand, surprising, mysterious, or obscure something is. It's not that surprising.
  • The second assessment is less obvious. It relates to intelligibility. This “coping potential” stands for people's consideration of whether they have the skills, knowledge and resources to deal with a situation or information.

In case of interest, people deal with an unexpected, complex event - they try to understand it. In short: if people rate an event as new and understandable, then they will also find it interesting.

Between interest and confusion

Take a group of students strolling through the museum. Some find modern art interesting: the work seems new, different, unusual to them, and thanks to a few hours of art history they feel able to understand what the artist was trying to tell them.

But most students, for example those who were “forced” to visit the museum as part of a seminar paper, find the modern art department totally uninteresting. You may find the work unusual, but also meaningless and incomprehensible. Classifying something as understandable is precisely the lever between interest and confusion - related knowledge emotions. New and understandable is interesting - new and incomprehensible is confusing.

Many studies show that it is precisely these two reviews that generate interest. Most of the experiments used real-world stimuli, such as abstract art, classical imagery, contemporary poetry, and short essays. Experiments that manipulate participants' ratings show that people are more interested when the stimuli become both more complex and more understandable. For example, people found an abstract poem more interesting when they were given clues that would help them understand it. Interest motivates learning something new and complex: when people understand something, it is no longer interesting. An effect that managers should keep an eye on, especially in supposedly innovative companies.

The new knowledge, in turn, enables more things to be interesting. Knowing about a certain area enables people to understand subtle differences.Knowing a certain area allows us to see subtle differences and contrasting perspectives, and contrasting perspectives that are hidden to newcomers, and thus differentiate between novelty and complexity . This way, concepts that are confusing to newbies can be interesting to experts because they feel they understand. It's a kind of self-reinforcing drive: it motivates people to learn, which in turn gives them the knowledge they need to keep them interested. Which also explains a common phenomenon: There is a common feeling among experts that the more they learn, the more complex and mysterious their area of ​​interest becomes.

New doesn't necessarily make you curious

What does this mean for the everyday life of a company or organization? If the interest arises from the fact that employees see something as new and understandable, then the executives who want to arouse interest should focus more on both and reinforce them.

It is important to avoid one of the more and more common mistakes: the over-distraction caused by too much input, such as e-mails popping up or acoustic signals from social media. A typical case illustrates this: A textbook wants to arouse the interest of the students. The authors sprinkle irrelevant quotes, comics and photos in each chapter for motivation. Diverting attention from the central points of the text is by no means the same as making the content of the text interesting. The most important factors for the interest of a text are: the evaluation of the novelty / complexity (novelty, liveliness, complexity and element of surprise of the material) and the evaluation of the comprehensibility (coherence, concreteness, ease of processing).

So while gut instincts would say: things get interesting when we spice them up, research says: things get interesting when they are clear, structured, coherent and surprising.