Motivation: Theory and Research

By Harold F. O'Neil Jr.; Michael Drillings | Go to book overview

12
Curiosity and Exploratory Behavior

Charles D. Spielberger

Laura M. Starr

University of South Florida, Tampa

Tendencies to explore and investigate the environment are characteristic of the behavior of higher organisms; curiosity is generally regarded as the motivational determinant that energizes these exploratory behaviors. Both curiosity and exploration have been linked to a variety of related motivational constructs such as drives, motives, need for stimulus change, intrinsic motivation, etc. ( Voss & Keller, 1983). Although many investigators have devoted their efforts to research on curiosity and exploratory behavior, the literature continues to be characterized by diverse theoretical views and contradictory empirical findings.

The goals of this chapter are to review theory and research on curiosity and exploratory behavior, and to examine the measures of these constructs as emotional states and personality traits. The chapter is divided into four sections. Theoretical conceptions of curiosity and exploratory behavior are briefly reviewed in the first section. The second section presents an optimal stimulation/dual-process theory of curiosity and anxiety. The measurement of state and trait curiosity is considered in the third section. Finally, the findings of research on the measurement of curiosity and the effects of curiosity and anxiety on classroom behavior are reported.


THEORY AND RESEARCH ON CURIOSITY

The concept of curiosity was introduced into the psychological literature as early as 1890 by William James, who considered curiosity to be one of the primary instincts. Strongly influenced by Darwin's ( 1965) views on evolution, James ( 1890) proposed an instinct theory of curiosity. He reasoned that attraction to a

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