Interest (psychology)

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Under interest (from latin interest , "be between" "taking part") refers to the cognitive sympathy respectively the attention that takes a person to an object or another person. The greater this concern, the greater the person's interest in the cause. A person's preferences or hobbies are also referred to as interests. Something is interesting to a person when it arouses their interest, that is, they are interested in it . The opposite of this is disinterest or, to a greater extent, (sometimes pathological) apathy .

In psychology, one speaks of a multidimensional construct with regard to interest (Todt, 1978; 1990). Modern interest theories and research approaches are based on a person-object conception which interprets the psychological phenomena of learning and development as a permanent exchange relationship between a person and their social environment (Lewin, 1963; Deci & Ryan, 1985). The object of interest is defined by concrete objects, thematic areas of knowledge or by certain classes of activities. The degree of interests is defined, how high the degree of subjective appreciation of the object of interest is and how intense the positive emotional states are during the acts of interest. In educational psychology, interest is primarily analyzed from the perspective of a person's emotional, motivational, and cognitive relationship to objects.

Interest is also understood to be a goal or an advantage that a person or group of people promises or hopes for from something. Interest groups , for example, pursue their own goals, often of an economic nature.

Santel's model of interests (2019) distinguishes 3 different types of interests. If the interest results from hopes for success and the resulting recognition, one speaks of success-based interest. This can be distinguished from the pre-requisite interest, which only develops after a sense of achievement.

Psychological interest research

Example of situational interest

There are two perspectives in the psychological investigation of interest:

  1. Current states of a person are examined from the process-oriented perspective . The central question is how interest is aroused and what effects that interest has on the person. Here, a distinction situational interest (formation of interest after receiving stimuli) and updated interest (wake of an existing individual interest by irritants).
  2. From the structure-oriented perspective , on the other hand, permanent conditions and individual interests that have remained constant over a longer period of time are examined.

Within the framework of the structure-oriented perspective, there are various interest models that can relate either to professional interests or to leisure interests . A well-known model, the validity of which has been proven in a large number of empirical studies for both areas, is the RIASEC model from Holland. An important professional interest test based on this is the general interest structure test General Interest Structure Test (AIST) by Bergmann and Eder. A corresponding leisure interest test is the leisure interest test FIT by Werner Stangl.


  • A. Krapp: Interest. In: D. Rost (Hrsg.): Short dictionary pedagogical psychology. 2nd Edition. PVU, Weinheim 2009, pp. 286-294.
  • A. Krapp: Concepts and research approaches to analyze the relationship between interest, learning and performance. In: A. Krapp, M. Prenzel (Ed.): Interest, learning, performance. Newer approaches to a pedagogical-psychological interest research. Aschendorff, Münster 1992, pp. 9-52.
  • U. Schiefele: Motivation and learning with texts. Hogrefe, Göttingen 1996, especially Chapters 4.4 and 7.
  • M. Ainley, S. Hidi, D. Berndorff: Interest, learning, and the psychological processes that mediate their relationship. In: Journal of Educational Psychology. 94, 2002, pp. 545-561.

Web links

Commons : Interest (Emotion)  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Interest  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Der kleine Stowasser : Latin-German school dictionary