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The magic of storytelling: How curiosity and aesthetic preferences work


  • Bianchi, Marina


Why do we love stories? That this is not an idle question is shown by the fact that we spend an enormous amount of time in our lives following stories: telling and listening to them; reading them; watching them on television or in films or on stage. Despite their recurrent similarity and even predictability, we continue to enjoy them. The paper brings to bear on this question two different strands of current literature in experimental psychology: the literature on aesthetic preferences, and the literature on curiosity and interest. The paper discusses how, in the case of storytelling in particular, though also of creative activities in general, there are two types of curiosity at work: explorative curiosity - associated with investigating new ideas for the simple joy of it and regardless of source - and specific curiosity, corresponding to focused exploration and aimed at solving problems for which the accuracy and relevance of information is of importance. In both cases curiosity is felt as an intensely pleasant experience, which is affected not only by external, but also by the internal stimuli of novelty and challenge. But how does interest/curiosity solidify into preferences that have stability enough to guarantee guidance yet sufficient flexibility to allow for change? The answer explored here highlights the distinction between comfort goods and activities and creative goods and activities. The latter, which allow for complexity, variety and multiplicity of dimensions have a transformative power that allows also for sustained stimulation and interest. The broader aim is to analyze the "behavior" of individual preferences - how they form, how they stabilize, how they change - in the consumption not only of art, the usual focus in discussion of aesthetic preferences, but also of all those goods and activities that can be called creative.

Suggested Citation

  • Bianchi, Marina, 2014. "The magic of storytelling: How curiosity and aesthetic preferences work," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 8, pages 1-30.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:ifweej:201444

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. George A. Akerlof, 2009. "How Human Psychology Drives the Economy and Why It Matters," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1175-1175.
    2. Maurizio Pugno, 2012. "Scitovsky’s Theory of Well-being," HISTORY OF ECONOMIC THOUGHT AND POLICY, FrancoAngeli Editore, vol. 2012(2), pages 35-56.
    3. Bianchi, Marina, 2003. "A questioning economist: Tibor Scitovsky's attempt to bring joy into economics," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 391-407, June.
    4. Peter Earl, 2011. "From anecdotes to novels: Reflective inputs for behavioural economics," New Zealand Economic Papers, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 45(1-2), pages 5-22.
    5. Peter Earl & Jason Potts, 2013. "The creative instability hypothesis," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 37(2), pages 153-173, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Marina Bianchi, 2015. "Disappointment and Public action: Albert Hirschman’s ways of complicating economic theory," Working Papers 2015-01, Universita' di Cassino, Dipartimento di Economia e Giurisprudenza.

    More about this item


    Aesthetics; motivations; curiosity; consumer preferences;

    JEL classification:

    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory


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