The Multidimensional Structure of Interest

Main Article Content

Jael Marjan Draijer
Arthur Bakker
Esther Slot
Sanne Akkerman


There is increasing attention for interest as a powerful, complex, and integrative construct, ranging in appearance from entirely momentary states of interest to longer-term interest pursuits. Developmental models have shown how these situational interests can develop into individual interests over time. As such, these models have helped to integrate more or less separate research traditions and focus the attention of the field more on the developmental dynamics. This, however, also raises subsequent questions, one being how development can be understood in terms of interest structure. The developmental models seem to suggest that development occurs roughly along the line of six dimensions, which we summarize as the dimensions of historicity, value, agency, frequency, intensity, and mastery. Using an experience sampling method that was implemented in a smartphone application, we prompted 94 adolescents aged 13 to 16 (60% female) to rate each interest they experienced during two weeks on these six dimensions. A latent profile analysis on 1247 interests showed six distinct multidimensional patterns, indicating both a homogeneous and heterogeneous structure of interest. Four homogeneous patterns were indicated by more or less equal levels on all six dimensions in varying degrees, and contained 86% of the interests. Two heterogeneous patterns were found, describing variations of interest that are interpreted and discussed. These results endorse the complexity of the construct of interest and provide suggestions for identifying different manifestations of interest.

Article Details

How to Cite
Draijer, J. M., Bakker, A., Slot, E., & Akkerman, S. (2020). The Multidimensional Structure of Interest. Frontline Learning Research, 8(4), 18 - 36.


Ainley, M., Hidi, S., & Berndorff, D. (2002). Interest, learning, and the psychological processes that mediate their relationship. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94(3), 545–561.

Akkerman, S. F., & Bakker, A. (2012–2014). Interest in Science: Development across sites of learning. ELS Starting Grant, Utrecht University, the Netherlands.

Akkerman, S. F., & Bakker, A. (2019). Persons pursuing multiple objects of interest in multiple contexts. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 34(1), 1–24.

Alexander, P. A., Kulikowich, J. M., & Jetton, T. L. (1994). The role of subject-matter knowledge and interest in the processing of linear and nonlinear texts. Review of Educational Research, 64(2), 201–252.

Arnold, F. (1906). The psychology of interest (I). Psychological Review, 13(4), 221–238.

Asparouhouv, T., & Muthén, B.O. (2007). Wald test of mean equality for potential latent class predictors in mixture modeling. Retrieved from MeanTest1.pdf on April 21, 2016.

Azevedo, F. S. (2006). Personal excursions: Investigating the dynamics of student engagement. International Journal of Computers for Mathematical Learning, 11, 57–98.

Azevedo, F. S. (2018). An inquiry into the structure of situational interests. Science Education, 102(1), 108–127.

Barron, B. (2006). Interest and self-sustained learning as catalysts of development: A learning ecology perspective. Human Development, 49(4), 193–224.

Bruner, J. S. (1990). Acts of meaning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Larson, R. (2014). Validity and reliability of the experience-sampling method. In M. Csikszentmihalyi (Ed.), Flow and the foundations of positive psychology (pp. 35–54). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

Csikszentmihalyi, M., Larson, R., & Prescott, S. (1977). The ecology of adolescent activity and experience. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 6(3), 281–294.

Dewey, J. (1913). Interest and Effort in Education. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

DiGiacomo, D. K., Van Horne, K., Van Steenis, E., & Penuel, W. R. (2018). The material and social constitution of interest. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 19, 51–60.

Erstad, O., & Silseth, K. (2019). Futuremaking and digital engagement: from everyday interests to educational trajectories. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 26(4), 309–322.

Greeno, J. G., Collins, A. M., & Resnick, L. B. (1996). Cognition and learning. In D. Berliner & R. Calfee (Eds.), Handbook of Educational Psychology (pp. 15–41). New York: MacMillian.

Harackiewicz, J. M., Barron, K. E., Tauer, J. M., & Elliot, A. J. (2002). Predicting success in college: A longitudinal study of achievement goals and ability measures as predictors of interest and performance from freshman year through graduation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94(3), 562–575.

Harackiewicz, J. M., Durik, A. M., Barron, K. E., Linnenbrink-Garcia, L., & Tauer, J. M. (2008). The role of achievement goals in the development of interest: Reciprocal relations between achievement goals, interest, and performance. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100(1), 105–122.

Hedges, H. (2019). The “fullness of life”: Learner interests and educational experiences. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 23.

Hidi, S., & Baird, W. (1986). Interestingness—A neglected variable in discourse processing. Cognitive Science, 10(2), 179–194.

Hidi, S., & Renninger, K. A. (2006). The four-phase model of interest development. Educational Psychologist, 41(2), 111–127.

Hinton, L. M., & Kern, L. (1999). Increasing homework completion by incorporating student interests. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 1(4), 231–241.

Holmegaard, H. T. (2015). Performing a Choice-Narrative: A qualitative study of the patterns in STEM students’ higher education choices. International Journal of Science Education, 37(9), 1454–1477.

Ito, M., Martin, C., Pfister, R. C., Rafalow, M. H., Salen, K., & Wortman, A. (2018). Affinity online: How connection and shared interest fuel learning. NYU Press.

Kleiber, D., Larson, R., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014). The experience of leisure in adolescence. In M. Csikszentmihalyi (Ed.), Flow and the foundations of positive psychology (pp. 467–474). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

Köller, O., Baumert, J., & Schnabel, K. (2001). Does interest matter? The relationship between academic interest and achievement in mathematics. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 32(5), 448–470.

Krapp, A. (2002). Structural and dynamic aspects of interest development: Theoretical considerations from an ontogenetic perspective. Learning and Instruction, 12(4), 383–409.

Krapp, A., Hidi, S., & Renninger, K. A. (1992). Interest, learning, and development. In K. A. Renninger, S. Hidi, & A. Krapp (Eds.), The role of interest in learning and development (pp. 3–25). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Lazarsfeld, P.F., & Henry, N.W. (1968). Latent structure analysis. Boston: Houghton Mill.

Marsh, H. W., Lüdtke, O., Trautwein, U., & Morin, A. J. (2009). Classical latent profile analysis of academic self-concept dimensions: Synergy of person-and variable-centered approaches to theoretical models of self-concept. Structural Equation Modeling: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 16(2), 191–225.

Meeus, W., Van De Schoot, R., Keijsers, L., Schwartz, S. J., & Branje, S. (2010). On the progression and stability of adolescent identity formation: A five‐wave longitudinal study in early‐to‐middle and middle‐to‐late adolescence. Child development, 81(5), 1565–1581.

Mitchell, M. (1993). Situational interest: Its multifaceted structure in the secondary school mathematics classroom. Journal of Educational Psychology, 85(3), 424–436.

Muthén, L.K., & Muthén, B.O. (2015). Mplus User’s Guide. 7th Ed. Los Angeles, CA: Muthén & Muthén.

Nakamura, J., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014). The concept of flow. In M. Csikszentmihalyi (Ed.), Flow and the foundations of positive psychology (pp. 239–263). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

Reber, R., Canning, E. A., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (2018). Personalized education to increase interest. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 27(6), 449–454.

Renninger, K. A. (2000). Individual interest and its implications for understanding intrinsic motivation. In C. Sansone & J. M. Harackiewicz (Eds.), Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: The search for optimal motivation and performance (pp. 373–404). New York, NY: Academic Press.

Renninger, K. A., Bachrach, J. E., & Hidi, S. E. (2019). Triggering and maintaining interest in early phases of interest development. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 23, 100260. https://doi-org /10.1016/j.lcsi.2018.11.007

Renninger, K. A. & Hidi, S. (2016). The power of interest for motivation and engagement. New York, NY: Routledge.

Renninger, K. A., & Leckrone, T. (1991). Continuity in young children’s actions: A consideration of interest and temperament. In L. Oppenheimer & J. Valsiner (Eds.), The origins of action: Interdisciplinary and international perspectives (pp. 205–238). New York, NY: Springer-Verlag.

Renninger, K. A., & Su, S. (2019). Interest and Its Development, Revisited. In R. M. Ryan (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Human Motivation (pp. 205–225). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Sachisthal, M. S. M., Jansen, B. R. J., Peetsma, T. T. D., Dalege, J., van der Maas, H. L. J., & Raijmakers, M. E. J. (2019). Introducing a science interest network model to reveal country differences. Journal of Educational Psychology, 111(6), 1063–1080.

Schiefele, U. (1992). Topic Interest and Levels of Text Comprehension. In K. A. Renninger, S. Hidi, & A. Krapp (Eds.), The role of interest in learning and development (pp. 151–182). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Schiefele, U. (2009). Situational and individual interest. In K. Wentzel, A. Wigfield, & D. Miele (Eds.), Handbook of motivation at school (pp. 197–222). New York, NY: Routledge.

Schiefele, U., Krapp, A., & Winteler, A. (1992). Interest as a predictor of academic achievement: A meta-analysis of research. In K. A. Renninger, S. Hidi, & A. Krapp (Eds.), The role of interest in learning and development (pp. 183–212). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Schiefele, U. & Rheinberg, F. (1997). Motivation and knowledge acquisition: Searching for mediating processes. In M. L. Maehr & P. R. Pintrich (Eds.), Advances in motivation and achievement, Volume 10 (pp. 251–301). Greenwich, UK: JAI Press.

Slot, E., Akkerman, S., & Wubbels, T. (2019). Adolescents’ interest experience in daily life in and across family and peer contexts. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 34(1), 25–43.

Strong, E. K., (1927). Vocational interest test. Educational Record, 8, 107–121.

Tein, J. Y., Coxe, S., & Cham, H. (2013). Statistical power to detect the correct number of classes in latent profile analysis. Structural Equation Modeling: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 20(4), 640–657.

Tobias, S. (1994). Interest, prior knowledge, and learning. Review of Educational Research, 64(1), 37–54.

Tracey, T. J., Robbins, S. B., & Hofsess, C. D. (2005). Stability and change in interests: A longitudinal study of adolescents from grades 8 through 12. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 66(1), 1–25.

Vulperhorst, J. P., van der Rijst, R. M., & Akkerman, S. F. (2020). Dynamics in higher education choice: weighing one’s multiple interests in light of available programmes. Higher Education, 79, 1001–1021.

Walkington, C. A. (2013). Using adaptive learning technologies to personalize instruction to student interests: The impact of relevant contexts on performance and learning outcomes. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105(4), 932–945.