Shared and Unique Features of Epistemic Emotions: Awe, Surprise, Curiosity, Interest, Confusion, and Boredom

Marret Noordewier, Gosia Goclowska

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Epistemic emotions arise when information is complex, unexpected, or in another way not understood. They are responsible for important outcomes related to learning, openness, or exploration. Epistemic emotions are hardly ever studied together, making it difficult to predict what features are shared versus unique to each emotion. To address this, we conducted two autobiographical recall experiments. We compared awe, surprise, curiosity, interest, confusion, and boredom in terms of elicitors, subjective experience components, and actions tendencies. Ratings were analyzed using network analyses, to describe the central components for the whole group of epistemic emotions. In addition, ratings were compared per emotion, to identify key features for each individual emotion. Results showed that valence, arousal, coping potential, and avoidance are central features of all epistemic emotions. Awe, surprise, and interest were relatively positive emotions, which together with curiosity, were associated with arousal, high coping potential, and approach. Confusion and boredom were relatively negative emotions, which were associated with low arousal, low coping potential, and avoidance. Further analyses revealed unique features of (groups of) emotions. For example, awe was associated with exceeded expectancies, while surprise was associated with both exceeded and disconfirmed expectancies. Moreover, curiosity and confusion were associated with having (too) little information, while awe and interest were associated with having sufficient information. All emotions except boredom were associated with exploration, but this was particularly high for curiosity and interest.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1029-1048
Number of pages21
Issue number4
Early online date14 Dec 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding: This work was supported by a Seedcorn Research Grant from the European Association of Social Psychology.

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