Interests in the Making
The ontogenesis of interest
For every species, the environment rarely provides a neutral background for the unfolding of behaviors. One of the objectives of appraisal theory is to show how the physiological state and the values of an organism can make certain stimuli appear relevant in a given context.
While it is the case for all social animals that conspecifics constitute an important part of this environment, humans are special in the sense that the relevance of specific objects or events can be highly dependent on cultural norms and preferences.
For children to acquire these differential saliences, we hypothesize that the expression of interest plays a crucial role: by detecting interest in others, their attention will be attracted to the objects and events that are considered as worth attending to in a given social group.
The project has four main components:
• Firstly, we want to specify conceptually, with the help of philosophers, the emotional nature of interest.
• Secondly, we intend to identify if there is a specific expression of interest and, if so, to what extent and under which conditions people can recognize it.
• Thirdly, we are in the process of showing that children, in the beginning of their second year of life, are able to detect the expression of interest of others and use it to explore preferentially an “interesting” object.
• Fourthly, we will use an eye-tracker to describe how social belonging to a particular group can influence what people consider as interesting in a given social environment.