The objective of the three studies presented here was to investigate how situational interest is related to knowledge acquisition. Situational interest is construed as a motivational response to a perceived knowledge deficit. It is triggered in situations where this knowledge deficit becomes manifest, such as in the confrontation with a problem. In Study 1 we manipulated prior knowledge of 32 secondary-school students about a particular problem (i.e., reasons for the conquest of Singapore by the Japanese during the Second World War). Only students who lacked the appropriate knowledge showed an increase in situational interest after the problem was presented. In Study 2 (N=60), students who showed awareness that they lacked knowledge to understand a problem (i.e., causes of erosion of an island) showed increased situational interest in that problem. In Study 3 (N=86), situational interest and knowledge acquisition were monitored over the course of a 3-h lesson in a natural classroom. We were able to demonstrate that situational interest decreased with increasing knowledge of the problem-at-hand. We argue that the findings support a knowledge-deprivation account of situational interest. Our findings are at variance with the broadly held conviction that situational interest and knowledge necessarily influence each other positively.

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ERIM Top-Core Articles
Learning and Instruction
Erasmus University Rotterdam

Rotgans, J., & Schmidt, H. (2014). Situational interest and learning: Thirst for knowledge. Learning and Instruction, 32, 37–50. doi:10.1016/j.learninstruc.2014.01.002