This paper investigates the plausibility of novelty–variety as a potential basic psychological need in a series of three studies. Using criteria proposed by Baumeister and Leary (Psychol Bull 117:497–529, 1995) and Ryan and Deci (in Self-determination theory: basic psychological needs in motivation, development, and wellness. Guilford Publishing, New York, 2017) to establish a motive as a basic human need, we focus on those criteria where evidence is lacking. Specifically, we examine whether novelty–variety is distinct from other needs in Basic Psychological Need Theory (BPNT) proposed by Self-Determination Theory (SDT), whether its absence results in adverse effects and its satisfaction uniquely predicts well-being outcomes, and whether the effects are different across age and personality. In Study 1, participants (N = 202) rated novelty–variety and needs from BPNT (competence, autonomy, relatedness) in three domains to assess its independence from these needs and the extent to which novelty–variety uniquely relates to domain-specific well-being. In Study 2 (N = 414), the fulfillment of novelty–variety and two BPNT needs (autonomy and relatedness) was experimentally manipulated in work-related vignettes, further showing that unsatisfied novelty–variety is related to lower well-being. Finally, the third study (N = 599) accounts for some of the limitations in Study 2 and examines the criteria of universality. Based on the examined criteria, all three studies provide support for further considering novelty–variety as a potential basic psychological need.
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The full study examined novelty-variety among other prominent psychological needs from various different models (using ten candidate needs from Sheldon et al.’s 2001 study). Specifically, we explored whether novelty-variety was separate from the other well-established needs and if it independently contributed to well-being outcomes. The present paper only reports the findings amongst BPNT needs. Full analyses are available on http://osf.io/wz4be/.
The exclusion criteria were based on an initial test-run completed from the preliminary study. The decision for the 5-min time limit was further justified by the vast majority of participants who also failed the attention checks. The n = 59 participants excluded from the analyses were comprised of n = 41 that did not meet the 5-min cut-off criterion and n = 18 that failed one or more of the attention checks.
The best-fitting model had unrestricted within and two between, but the factor loadings did not make sense (many cases of cross loadings of .5 and above on both factors; see full output on http://osf.io/cjp5r/). Since this model was theoretically uninterpretable, we did not consider it further.
A similar study was conducted prior to this one, but suffered from a flaw: the needs presented within the vignettes were not randomized. Due to space restrictions we do not present it here, but the full write-up can be found on http://osf.io/48k3n/.
508 participants were initially recruited. A total of 94 participants were excluded from further analyses. This included n = 49 subjects who did not complete the manipulation, n = 33 did not meet the the 5 min cut-off criterion, and n = 12 that failed one or more of the attention checks
We also tested our initial assumption and did not find a significant difference between thwarted autonomy and thwarted relatedness for well-being Mdiff = 0.003, SE = .198 p = .984. Thus, our assumption that the needs would operate similarly in the work domain was confirmed in the present study.
This hypothesis was not preregistered before conducting the study, as the issue of universality was brought up during the review process; however, based on theory and exploratory results from study 1, we anticipated this result before the analyses were conducted. We also acknowledge that we cannot technically test this hypothesis with conventional inferential statistics (as we can only reject the existence of an effect, not provide evidence that the effect is null).
To match the number of questions used for the other needs, we removed the following two items from the initial 10-item scale: "giving a gift for a wedding, birthday or other occasion would put a strain on my finances for the month" and "I can enjoy life because of the way I’m managing my money".
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This research was supported by funding from the Social and Humanities Research Council of Canada to M. Milyavskaya.
Conflict of interest
L. Bagheri declares that she has no conflict of interest. M. Milyavskaya declares that she has no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were approved by the institutional research ethics board, and were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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Appendix 1: Pilot study details
Novelty–variety items were first devised based on an extensive literature review of novelty and variety to gain a comprehensive understanding of the construct and how it has been used in previous research. Using existing questionnaires on novelty and variety (i.e., Experience Seeking subscale; Zukerman 2007), and our understanding of the constructs based on previous research (i.e, Sheldon et al. 2012), separate questions were developed to measure novelty, variety, and the combination of the two (items that qualify as both novel and different). We aimed to devise questions without other potential confounds (i.e., excitement, opportunity gains, etc.) as we were interested in measuring the unique effects of novelty and variety. For novelty items, a sample question given to participants was “It adds something new to my day, week or month”. For variety, a sample question included was “I experience variety in this domain”. Questions that could qualify as both novelty or variety included “It takes me out of a normal routine”.
After the questions were developed (see full list in Table 7 below), we tailored the items to the domain-specific contexts (work/school, hobby, relationship, friendship) that were presented to participants. For example, for the hobby domain, the question “I have changed things up recently” was tailored to “Within my Hobby Domain, I have changed things up recently”. Then participants rated 35 candidate descriptive statements of novelty and variety within the two domains they were randomly assigned. Items were measured on a 7-point Likert scale (1 = Strongly Disagree, 7 = Strongly Agree) and the questions were randomized to account for order effects.
Factor analysis of novelty and variety items
In order to assess whether a distinction between the construct of novelty and variety was justified, an Exploratory Principle Component Factor Analysis was conducted in SPSS separately within each domain (work, hobby, relationship, friendship) using the 35 items. Eigenvalues were observed to determine whether novelty and variety would load onto the same (or different) factors. We also assessed the number of factors within each domain to exclude potential confounds. We extracted and analyzed factors with eigenvalues over Kaiser’s criterion of 1. Overall, we did not find any distinction between the construct of novelty and variety. In other words, novelty and variety items loaded onto the same factor and appeared to be similarly dispersed among the other factors found within each domain.
More specifically, within the work domain, four factors had eigenvalues greater than 1 and in combination explained 73.41% of the variance. We found the first factor to be a combination of novelty and variety items (i.e., I make new choices; I have a variety of options); the second factor to include novelty and variety items in relation to the environment and people (i.e., There are new people in my environment; I get to interact with various people); the third factor to include the experiences and outcomes of novelty and variety (i.e., I do multiple things; unpredictable things happen); and the fourth factor to comprise of negatively worded items of novelty and variety (i.e., Things have become routine; my activities have stayed the same). Overall, we found that novelty and variety items were randomly distributed in each factor and neither one disproportionately loaded onto any one factor. The same pattern of results was observed in the friendship domain with five factors that had eigenvalues over Kaiser’s criterion of one and explained 75.17% of the variance. For the hobby domain, seven factors emerged and explained 70.14% of the variance. Again, we found similar loadings to that of the work and friendship domain (i.e., relationship and negatively worded items loaded onto separate factors). We found the lower factors to only contain one item over r = 0.4 (i.e., There are possibilities for new rewards). Finally, in the relationship domain, six factors emerged and in combination explained 75.65% of the variance. For all domains observed, we did not find novelty and variety items to disproportionately load onto different factors.
Correlation between novelty and variety items
To further test whether a distinction between the construct of novelty and variety was justified, we also assessed the correlation between the two. An unusually strong correlation (i.e. above r = .79, Evans 1996) would justify combining the items into a single factor, while a moderate or low relationship would justify measuring the constructs separately. We found novelty and variety to be highly correlated in all domains measured: rhobby = .79; rwork = .85; rfriendship = .92, rrelationship = .90. As such, we combined novelty and variety items into a single factor for subsequent analyses.
Final items for novelty–variety
To ensure that the operationalization of novelty–variety was more representative of a single latent variable, we forced all 35 items into 1 factor in a subsequent factor analysis. Items that did not load strongly onto the one factor were excluded. For example, items such as “I’m always interacting with the same people” and “There are new people in my environment” were eliminated as they had relatively low factor loadings and had loaded more closely onto other factors in the previous analyses. We then chose the top three items with the highest factor loadings amongst all of the domains. The final items used in the subsequent analyses were: “I have tried something new recently”, “I do something new”, and “It adds something new to my day, my week, or my month”. These three items were identified as the most “pure” representations of the novelty–variety construct (i.e., without the convolution of relationship, reward and opportunity).
Appendix 2: All analyses with separate components of well-being
Appendix 3: Study 3 results for need frustration
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Bagheri, L., Milyavskaya, M. Novelty–variety as a candidate basic psychological need: New evidence across three studies. Motiv Emot 44, 32–53 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-019-09807-4
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