What is it about?

Imagine the feeling when you stumble upon something entirely new or unexpected, or when you are confronted with a challenging puzzle. You will likely feel awe, surprise, interest, curiosity, or confusion. Now, imagine the feeling when nothing is really happening and there isn’t any challenge or input. You will likely feel bored. These emotions, that accompany the exploration of information, are called "epistemic emotions". This research compared awe, surprise, curiosity, interest, confusion, and boredom. Participants were asked to recall an experience in which they felt one of these epistemic emotions and they rated this emotion in terms of what caused the emotion, how it made them feel, and what it made them do. Let's delve into what this research uncovered: Epistemic emotions have various shared characteristics that help to divide them into groups. Positive emotions include awe, surprise, and interest. Along with curiosity, these emotions stimulate a desire to approach the source of the emotion (e.g., approach an interesting puzzle). In contrast, negative emotions include confusion and boredom. These emotions prompt a desire to avoid their source (e.g., avoid a confusing mathematical equation). The motivation to explore (e.g., find out more about something) is also a common feature among the epistemic emotions, except boredom. Additionally, the epistemic emotions tend to feel absorbing, with boredom receiving somewhat lower absorbtion scores. Epistemic emotions also exhibit various unique characteristics. For example, confusion often arises when faced with complexity, while boredom is prompted by familiarity and simplicity. Curiosity and confusion stem from a lack of information, while awe and interest revel in having enough information to delve into. Surprise and awe are all about making sense of the unexpected.

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Why is it important?

Epistemic emotions give us an insight into how and when people explore information and develop their ideas about the world. They can affect a range of important outcomes, such as learning, science interest, and openness towards others. So, next time you're faced with a perplexing problem or an unexpected discovery, take a moment to notice what’s happening in your mind and body. Are you in awe? Surprised? Curious? Consider what emotion you are feeling, and what this emotion motivates you to do.

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Shared and unique features of epistemic emotions: Awe, surprise, curiosity, interest, confusion, and boredom., Emotion, December 2023, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/emo0001314.
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