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UBC Theses and Dissertations

What satisfies a curious mind? curiosity prompts novel reward seeking Wang, Chen


In this age of information overload, consumers are bombarded with various curiosity-inducing stimuli from newspapers, TV programs, movies, web banners, etc. Despite its ubiquity in the consumption world, curiosity has surprisingly received little attention in cognitive psychology and consumer behavior research (Kang et al. 2009; Menon and Soman 2002). In the limited research on state curiosity, most attention has been directed to its impact on people’s search for domain-specific information that closes the knowledge gap (Menon and Soman 2002; van Dijk and Zeelenberg 2007). However, as curiosity is also an appetitive state that possesses driving forces (Blumenberg 1983; Loewenstein 1994), it is possible that curiosity could motivate reward-seeking behaviors other than information seeking. My dissertation investigates the impact of curiosity, a cognitive deprivation arising from the perception of a gap in knowledge (Loewenstein 1994), on consumers’ subsequent reward-seeking behaviors. I find that curiosity motivates people to seek rewards, particularly novel rewards, in other unrelated domains, such as physical domains (e.g., money, food) and social domains (e.g., social friendship, charitable donation). This effect occurs as a result of a general appetitive drive and an open mindset, which are both activated by exposure to curiosity cues. I further identify that information content moderates this effect; when people are curious about threatening information, the effect of curiosity on the spillover reward-seeking tendency is mitigated. This research contributes to both the curiosity and the reward-seeking literature. While prior research has shown that curiosity motivates people to seek rewards in the cognitive domain by searching for the missing information, I show that this general motivational dimension of curiosity can prompt people to engage in reward-seeking behaviors in other unrelated domains. Further, I add to the existing spillover reward-seeking studies by showing that such effect induced by curiosity is particularly pronounced for novel rewards. This research also contributes to the reward-seeking literature by exploring how the spillover reward-seeking effect extends to the intangible cognitive and social domains (e.g., cognitive deprivation, social rewards).

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