Springer Nature is making Coronavirus research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Novelty–variety as a candidate basic psychological need: New evidence across three studies


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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. 1.

    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

  2. 2.

    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.

  3. 3.

    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 Since this model was theoretically uninterpretable, we did not consider it further.

  4. 4.

    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

  5. 5.

    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

  6. 6.

    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.

  7. 7.

    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).

  8. 8.

    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".


  1. Aron, A., Norman, C. C., Aron, E. N., McKenna, C., & Heyman, R. E. (2000). Couples’ shared participation in novel and arousing activities and experienced relationship quality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,78(2), 273–284.

  2. Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin,117, 497–529.

  3. Beike, S., & Zentall, S. S. (2012). “The snake raised its head”: Content novelty alters the reading performance of students at risk for reading disabilities and ADHD. Journal of Educational Psychology,104, 529–540.

  4. Bench, S. W. (2014). The role of boredom in the pursuit of negative experience. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Texas A & M University, College Station, Texas. Retrieved from

  5. Berlyne, D. E. (1974). Verbal and exploratory responses to visual patterns varying in uncertainty and in redundancy. In D. E. Berlyne (Ed.), Studies in the new experimental aesthetics (pp. 121–156). Washington, DC: Hemisphere.

  6. Branton, P. (1970). A field study of repetitive manual work in relation to accidents at the workplace. International Journal of Production Research,8, 93–107.

  7. Brickman, P., Coates, D., & Janoff-Bulman, R. (1978). Lottery winners and accident victims: Is happiness relative? The Journal of Social Psychology,36, 917–927.

  8. Buhrmester, M., Kwang, T., & Gosling, S. D. (2011). Amazon’s Mechanical Turk: A new source of inexpensive, yet high-quality, data? Perspectives on Psychological Science,6, 3–5.

  9. Cahill-Solis, T. L., & Witryol, S. L. (1994). Children’s exploratory play preferences for four levels of novelty in toy constructions. Genetic Social and General Psychology Monographs,120, 393–408.

  10. CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau). 2015. Measuring financial well-being: A guide to using the CFPB Financial Well-Being Scale. Washington, DC: CFPB.

  11. Chen, B., Assche, J., Vansteenkiste, M., Soenens, B., & Beyers, W. (2015a). Does psychological need satisfaction matter when environmental or financial safety are at Risk? Journal of Happiness Studies,16, 745–766.

  12. Chen, B., Vansteenkiste, M., Beyers, W., Boone, L., Deci, E. L., Van der Kaap-Deeder, J., et al. (2015b). Basic psychological need satisfaction, need frustration, and need strength across four cultures. Motivation and Emotion,39(2), 216–236.

  13. Cohen, J. D., McClure, S. M., & Yu, A. J. (2007). Should I stay or should I go? How the human brain manages the trade-off between exploitation and exploration. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 362, 933–942.

  14. Costa, V. D., Tran, V. L., Turchi, J., & Averbeck, B. B. (2014). Dopamine modulates novelty seeking behavior during decision making. Behavioral Neuroscience,128(5), 556–566.

  15. Daschmann, E. C., Goetz, T., & Stupnisky, R. H. (2011). Testing the predictors of boredom at school: Development and validation of the precursors to boredom scales. British Journal of Educational Psychology,81(3), 421–440.

  16. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York, NY: Plenum.

  17. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry,11(4), 227–268.

  18. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2002). Self-determination research: reflections and future directions. In E. L. Deci & R. M. Ryan (Eds.), Handbook of self-determination research (pp. 431–441). Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.

  19. DeWall, C. N., Maner, J. K., & Rouby, A. D. (2009). Social exclusion and early-stage interpersonal perception: Selective attention to signs of acceptance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,96, 729–741.

  20. Düzel, E., Bunzeck, N., Guitart-Masip, M., & Düzel, S. (2010). Novelty-related motivation of anticipation and exploration by dopamine (NOMAD): Implications for healthy aging. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews,34(5), 660–669.

  21. Eaves, R. C., & Glen, R. (1996). Novelty, age, and IQ: A theoretical look at human preference for novelty. Diagnostique,22(1), 1–20.

  22. Eliot, L. (1999). What’s going on in there: How the brain and mind develop in the first five years of life. New York: Bantam Books.

  23. Evans, J. D. (1996). Straightforward statistics for the behavioral sciences. Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks/Cole Publishing Co.

  24. Fagan, J. F., & Detterman, D. K. (1992). The fagan test of infant intelligence: A technical summary. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology,13(2), 173–193.

  25. Fenner, A. A., Straker, L. M., Davis, M. C., & Hagger, M. S. (2013). Theoretical underpinnings of a need-supportive intervention to address sustained healthy lifestyle changes in overweight and obese adolescents. Psychology of Sport and Exercise,14, 819–829.

  26. Francis, Z., & Inzlicht, M. (2016). Proximate and ultimate causes of ego depletion. In E. Hirt (Ed.), Self-regulation and ego control (pp. 373–398). New York: Elsevier.

  27. Friedman, A. (1979). Framing pictures: The role of knowledge in automatized encoding and memory for gist. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,108, 316–355.

  28. González-Cutre, D., Sicilia, A., Sierra, A., Ferriz, R., & Hagger, M. S. (2016). Understanding the need for novelty from the perspective of self-determination theory. Personality and Individual Differences,102, 159–169.

  29. Gordon, C. L., & Luo, S. (2011). The personal expansion questionnaire: Measuring one’s tendency to expand through novelty and augmentation. Personality and Individual Differences,51(2), 89–94.

  30. Görlitz, D. (1987). Exploration in everyday context: Situational components and processes in children and adults. In D. Görlitz & J. F. Wohwill (Eds.), Curiosity, imagination, and play (pp. 106–150). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

  31. Guay, F., Valois, P., Falardeau, E., & Lessard, V. (2016). Examining the effects of a professional development program on teachers’ pedagogical practices and students’ motivational resources and achievement in written French. Learning and Individual Differences,45, 291–298.

  32. Gunnell, K. E., Crocker, P. R., Mack, D. E., Wilson, P. M., & Zumbo, B. D. (2014). Goal contents, motivation, psychological need satisfaction, well-being and physical activity: A test of self-determination theory over 6 months. Psychology of Sport and Exercise,15(1), 19–29.

  33. Harasymchuk, C., & Fehr, B. (2010). A script analysis of relational boredom: Causes, feelings, and coping strategies. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology,29(9), 988–1019.

  34. Headey, B., & Wearing, A. (1989). Personality, life events, and subjective well-being: Toward a dynamic equilibrium model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,57(4), 731–739.

  35. Herrmann, D., & Felfe, J. (2013). Moderators of the relationship between leadership style and employee creativity: The role of task novelty and personal initiative. Creativity Research Journal,25(2), 172–181.

  36. Houillon, A., Lorenz, R. C., Boehmer, W., Rapp, M. A., Heinz, A., Gallinat, J., & Obermayer, K. (2013). The effect of novelty on reinforcement learning. Progress in Brain Research, 202, 415–439.

  37. Juvancic-Heltzel, J. A., Glickman, E. L., & Barkley, J. E. (2013). The effect of variety on physical activity: A cross-sectional study. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research,27, 244–251.

  38. Krebs, R. M., Schott, B. H., Slchütze, H., & Düzel, E. (2009). The novelty exploration bonus and its attentional modulation. Neuropsychologia,47(11), 2272–2281.

  39. Lucas, R. E., Clark, A. E., Georgellis, Y., & Diener, E. (2003). Reexamining adaptation and the set point model of happiness: Reactions to changes in marital status. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,84(3), 527–539.

  40. Mackinnon, A., Jorm, A. F., Christensen, H., Korten, A. E., Jacomb, P. A., & Rodgers, B. (1999). A short form of the positive and negative affect schedule: Evaluation of factorial validity and invariance across demographic variables in a community sample. Personality and Individual Differences,27(3), 405–416.

  41. Martindale, C., Moore, K., & West, A. (1988). Relationship of preference judgments to typicality, novelty, and mere exposure. Empirical Studies of the Arts,6, 79–96.

  42. Milyavskaya, M., & Koestner, R. (2011). Psychological needs, motivation, and well-being: A test of self-determination theory across multiple domains. Personality and Individual Differences,50(3), 387–391.

  43. Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B. O. (1998–2012). Mplus User’s Guide (7th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Muthén & Muthén.

  44. Nezlek, J. B. (2008). An introduction to Multilevel Modeling for social and personality psychology. Social and Personality Psychology Compass,2, 842–860.

  45. Nunnally, J. C., & Lemond, L. C. (1973). Exploratory behavior and human development. In H. W. Reese (Ed.), Advances in child development and behavior (Vol. 8, pp. 59–109). New York: Academic Press.

  46. O’Hanlon, James F. (1981). Boredom: Practical consequences and a theory. Acta Psychologica,49, 53–82.

  47. Parmelee, P. A., & Lawton, M. P. (1990). The design of special environments for the aged. In Handbook of the psychology of aging (3rd ed., pp. 464–488).

  48. Radel, R., Pelletier, L., Sarazzin, P., & Milyavskaya, M. (2011). Restoration process of the need for autonomy: The early alarm stage. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,11, 919–934.

  49. Ratner, R. K., Kahn, B. E., & Kahneman, D. (1999). Choosing less preferred experiences for the sake of variety. Journal of Consumer Research,26(1), 1–15.

  50. Reissman, C., Aron, A., & Bergen, M. R. (1993). Shared activities and marital satisfaction: Causal direction and self-expansion versus boredom. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships,10, 243–254.

  51. Ryan, R. M., Bernstein, J. H., & Brown, K. W. (2010). Weekends, work, and well-being: Psychological need satisfactions and day of the week effects on mood, vitality, and physical symptoms. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology,29(1), 95–122.

  52. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55, 68–78.

  53. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2017). Self-determination theory: Basic psychological needs in motivation, development, and wellness. New York: Guilford Publishing.

  54. Ryan, R. M., & Frederick, C. M. (1997). On energy, personality, and health: Subjective vitality as a dynamic reflection of well-being. Journal of Personality,65, 529–565.

  55. Schnoebelen, T., & Kuperman, V. (2010). Using Amazon Mechanical Turk for linguistic research. Psihologija,43, 441–464.

  56. Schweizer, T. S. (2006). The psychology of novelty-seeking, creativity and innovation: Neurocognitive aspects within a work-psychological perspective. Creativity and Innovation Management,15(2), 164–172.

  57. Sheldon, K. M., Boehm, J., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2012). Variety is the spice of happiness: The hedonic adaptation prevention model. The oxford handbook of happiness (pp. 901–914). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

  58. Sheldon, K. M., Cheng, C., & Hilpert, J. (2011). Understanding well-being and optimal functioning: Applying the Multilevel Personality in Context (MPIC) Model. Psychological Inquiry,22, 1–16.

  59. Sheldon, K. M., Elliot, A. J., Kim, Y., & Kasser, T. (2001). What is satisfying about satisfying events? Testing 10 candidate psychological needs. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,80(2), 325–339.

  60. Silvia, P. J. (2005). What is interesting? Exploring the appraisal structure of interest. Emotion,5(1), 89–102.

  61. Sternberg, R. J. (1981). Novelty-seeking, novelty-finding, and the developmental continuity of intelligence. Intelligence, 5(2), 149–155.

  62. Sylvester, B. D., Lubans, D. R., Eather, N., Standage, M., Wolf, S. A., McEwan, D., et al. (2016a). Effects of variety support on exercise-related well-being. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-being,8(2), 213–231.

  63. Sylvester, B. D., Standage, M., Dowd, A. J., Martin, L. J., Sweet, S. N., & Beauchamp, M. R. (2014). Perceived variety, psychological needs satisfaction and exercise-related well-being. Psychology & Health,29(9), 1.

  64. Sylvester, B. D., Standage, M., McEwan, D., Wolf, S. A., Lubans, D. R., Eather, N., et al. (2016b). Variety support and exercise adherence behavior: Experimental and mediating effects. Journal of Behavioral Medicine,39(2), 214–224.

  65. Tze, V. M. C., Daniels, L. M., & Klassen, R. M. (2016). Evaluating the relationship between boredom and academic outcomes: A meta-analysis. Educational Psychology Review,28(1), 119–144.

  66. Wagenmakers, E. (2007). A practical solution to the pervasive problems of p values. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 14, 779–804.

  67. Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: The PANAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,54(6), 1063.

  68. Wentworth, N., & Witryol, S. L. (2003). Curiosity, exploration and noveltyseeking. In M. H. Bornstein, L. Davidson, C. L. M. Keyes, & K. A. Moore (Eds.), Well-being: Positive development across the life course (pp. 281–294). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.

  69. Williams, G. C., Patrick, H., Niemiec, C. P., Ryan, R. M., Deci, E. L., & Lavigne, H. M. (2011). The Smoker’s Health Project: A self-determination theory intervention to facilitate maintenance of tobacco abstinence. Contemporary Clinical Trials,32, 535–543.

  70. Wood, L. M. (2004). Dimensions of brand purchasing behaviour: Consumers in the 18-24 age group. Journal of Consumer Behaviour,4(1), 9–24.

  71. Zukerman, M. (2007). The sensation seeking scale V (SSS-V): Still reliable and valid. Personality and Individual Differences,43(5), 1303–1305.

Download references


This research was supported by funding from the Social and Humanities Research Council of Canada to M. Milyavskaya.

Author information

Correspondence to Marina Milyavskaya.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

L. Bagheri declares that she has no conflict of interest. M. Milyavskaya declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

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

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.


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.

Table 7 Initial pool of items with factor loadings in four domains

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

See Tables 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15.

Table 8 Descriptive statistics and within-subject correlations for Study 1 variables
Table 9 Multilevel mixed-effects model with BPNT needs, novelty–variety and well-being components in Study 1
Table 10 Means and standard deviations for well-being components in each condition in Study 2
Table 11 Means and intercorrelations for Study 2
Table 12 Means and intercorrelations for Study 3
Table 13 Multiple regression of well-being components on ratings of needs across all conditions in Study 2
Table 14 Multiple regression of well-being components on ratings of needs across all conditions in Study 3
Table 15 Means and standard deviations for need satisfaction and well-being components in each condition in Study 3

Appendix 3: Study 3 results for need frustration

See Tables 16, 17, 18, and 19

Table 16 Novelty–variety items in study 3
Table 17 Need frustration means, SD and correlations from Study 3
Table 18 Means and standard deviations for need frustration in each condition
Table 19 Multiple regression of well-being on ratings of needs frustration across all conditions in Studies 3

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Bagheri, L., Milyavskaya, M. Novelty–variety as a candidate basic psychological need: New evidence across three studies. Motiv Emot 44, 32–53 (2020).

Download citation


  • Psychological needs
  • Novelty
  • Variety
  • Well-being