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Journal Article

Confused or curious? Openness/intellect predicts more positive interest-confusion relations.


Fayn,  Kirill
KU Leuven;
Department of Language and Literature, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;

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Fayn, K., Silvia, P. J., Dejonckheere, E., Verdonck, S., & Kuppens, P. (2019). Confused or curious? Openness/intellect predicts more positive interest-confusion relations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 117(5), 1016-1033. doi:10.1037/pspp0000257.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0003-F1E9-6
Open people show greater interest in situations that are complex, novel, and difficult to understand—situations that may also be experienced as confusing. Here we investigate the possibility that openness/intellect is centrally characterized by more positive relations between interest and confusion. Interest and confusion are key states experienced during engagement with information and learning. However, little is known about the within-person relation between them, let alone individual differences in this relation. We tested our hypotheses by making use of different paradigms, stimuli, and participants. Across five studies (N = 640) we tested the relation between openness/intellect and within-person interest-confusion relations in response to art (Study 1); science, philosophy, and art (Study 2); psychology lectures (Study 3); a poem (Study 4); and a complex problem solving task (Study 5). Average interest-confusion relations varied between different studies, but for all studies the distributions of the relations went from highly negative to highly positive—individual differences in direction rather than just degree. In all but 1 study we found consistent support for our hypotheses—openness/intellect is associated with more positive relations between interest and confusion. No other personality domain or intelligence was consistently related to interest-confusion relations. Together, these findings suggest a new phenomenological aspect of being open—curiosity toward confusing situations. Our findings support the link between openness/intellect and sensitivity to the value of complex information, and are discussed with regards to their relevance for engagement with information and learning. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)