The Multifaceted Role of Interest in Motivation and Engagement

  • Paul A. O’KeefeEmail author
  • E. J. Horberg
  • Isabelle Plante


In this chapter, we review research demonstrating the role of interest in motivation and engagement. First, we discuss the psychological experience of interest, examining how attention and affect shift during a state of interest. Here, studies suggest that, on the one hand, interest is often associated with narrowed attention, eliciting focused engagement, such as when one experiences a state of flow. On the other hand, interest is also linked to broadened attention, eliciting exploratory engagement. We then discuss the implicit theories people hold about interests—whether interests are believed to be inherent and fixed versus able to develop and grow. Recent research suggests that believing interests are developed (vs. fixed) increases interest in new areas and enables people to respond adaptively to motivational challenges by buffering them against a loss of interest when a new activity becomes difficult. Next we review research on how interest affects task performance and persistence, and consider the roles of focused and exploratory modes of engagement. Finally, we examine interest as an outcome of engagement, discussing processes ranging from cognitive dissonance to social interactions. Together, the research reviewed in this chapter converges to highlight the multiple means by which interest is powerfully linked to human motivation and engagement.


Affect Attention Engagement Goals Implicit theories Interest Motivation 



We thank Gabriel Ibasco for his contributions to this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul A. O’Keefe
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • E. J. Horberg
    • 1
  • Isabelle Plante
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyYale-NUS CollegeSingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.Management and Organisation, NUS Business SchoolNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore
  3. 3.University of QuebecMontrealCanada

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