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The case of curiosity and the night sky: relationship between noctcaelador and three forms of curiosity.

Author Note

Portions of this paper were presented at the 2014 meeting of the Southwestern Psychological Association.

Previous research has found that between 57% and 62% of adult samples report having engaged in some observation of the night sky at least once weekly (Kelly, Kelly, & Batey, 2006; Mace & McDaniel, 2013). Further, in one sample night sky watching was ranked third as an evening activity following reading and watching TV (Holbrook, 2008). Despite apparent interest in the night sky by some individuals, little psychological research has investigated characteristics of those who engage in night sky watching or their motivations for doing so.

Kelly (2003, 2004) identified a single factor that accounted for a majority of the variance in night sky watching attitudes and behaviors. Kelly (2003) termed this construct noctcaelador, defined as a psychological attachment to the night sky. To date, noctcaelador has been related to variables that reflect a flexible, yet rational, cognitive style such as openness to experience (Kelly & Kelly, 2010), creativity (Kelly & Kelly, 2014), unusual mental processing and perceptual experiences (Kelly, 2006; Kelly & Daughtry, 2005), and rational problem solving (Kelly, 2005).

Though some correlates been identified, little is known about the motivations underlying night-sky watching and no theoretical model for noctcaelador has been proposed. To develop a model, more research examining variables that might partly explain the development and maintenance of noctcaelador is needed. The purpose of the current study was to examine the relationship between noctcaelador and one possible correlate, curiosity.

As an individual differences variable, curiosity has been conceptualized as a desire for new knowledge or experience often aroused by complex or ambiguous stimuli (Litman & Silva, 2006). Researchers conceptualize curiosity as an intrinsic motivation to explore and seek-out personally meaningful experiences and information (Kashdan, Rose & Fincham, 2004). Silva (2008) found that curiosity was more likely to occur when focused on a novel stimulus and the individual's perceived ability to understand that stimulus.

Previous research has found that curiosity often predicts positively valenced outcome variables. For instance, curiosity has been found to predict more meaning in life and life satisfaction as well as more engagement in personal growth-oriented experiences (Kashdan & Roberts, 2004; Kashdan & Steger, 2007). It should also be noted that curiosity has been related to less healthy outcomes as well. For instance, Jovanovic and Gavrilov-Jovanovic (2014) found that curiosity was related to potentially destructive and dangerous risk-taking behaviors among adolescents.

Previous research has identified three forms of curiosity: 1) perceptual curiosity, evoked by complex or ambiguous sensory stimuli (Collins, Litman, & Spielberger, 2004), 2) epistemic curiosity, aroused by complex ideas or ambiguous concepts (Litman & Spielberger, 2003), and 3) curiosity as a feeling of deprivation, aroused by a need to know when information is lacking or unclear or problems have yet to be solved (Litman & Jimerson, 2004).

The possibility of a relationship between noctcaelador and curiosity is supported by their shared relationships with two other variables. Previous research has found that both noctcaelador and curiosity have been related to the broad band personality variable known as openness to experience (Kashdan et al., 2009; Kelly & Kelly, 2010). Further, noctcaelador and curiosity have been related to need for cognition (Kelly, 2005; Olson, Camp, and Fuller, 1984). Taking a nomological network approach (Cronbach & Meehl, 1955), these shared relationships suggest that noctcaelador and curiosity might share common, meaningful variance in that both involve an open cognitive style that requires mental focus. Therefore, it was hypothesized that noctcaelador would positively, significantly correlate with measures of curiosity. Given the nature of the night sky as a complex sensory stimulus (i.e., Kelly, 2008), noctcaelador was expected to most strongly relate with perceptual curiosity.


Participants and Procedure

After obtaining informed consent, 233 students (182 females, 51 males) enrolled in undergraduate psychology courses at two small universities in the Southern United States completed the scales described below. The average age of the sample was 25.1 years (SD = 7.1).


Noctcaelador Inventory (NI; Kelly, 2004). The NI (sample item: "I feel an emotional connection to the night sky") is a unidimensional 10-item scale. Participants responded using a 5-point Likert scale, 1="Strongly Disagree" to 5="Strongly Agree."

Perceptual Curiosity Scale (PCS; Collins et al., 2004). A 10-item version of the PCS ("I like exploring my surroundings") was used to measure perceptual curiosity, curiosity about external sensory stimuli. Participants responded using a 4-point scale, 1-"Strongly Disagree" to 4="Strongly Agree."

Epistemic Curiosity Scale (ECS; Litman & Spielberger, 2003). The ECS ("I enjoy exploring new ideas") measures curiosity about ideas and concepts. It includes 10 items rated on a 4-point scale, 1="Strongly Disagree" to 4="Strongly Agree."

Curiosity as a Feeling of Deprivation Scale (CFDS; Litman & Jimerson, 2004). The CFDS ("I can spend hours on a single problem because I just can't rest without knowing the answer") includes 15 items and measures curiosity as a desire to learn new information or clarity unclear information. Participants responded using a 4-point scale, 1="Strongly Disagree" to 4="Strongly Agree."

Items for each scale were summed to produce total scores. Higher scores indicated more of the respective traits. The cited articles contain psychometric information for each scale.


As seen in Table 1, NI scores were significantly, positively correlated with PCS, ECS, and CFDS scores. To examine which curiosity scales predicted unique variance in NI scores, a simultaneous regression was calculated entering scores for the three curiosity scales simultaneously as predictors and NI scores as the criterion. Together, the curiosity scales accounted for 13%, F (3, 223)=12.5, p<.001, of the variance in NI scores. An inspection of the within groups predictors revealed that the PCS was the only curiosity scale that accounted for significant unique variance in NI scores ([sr.sup.2] =.050, [beta]=.31, t=4.5, p<.001). As unique predictors of NI scores, the ECS ([sr.sup.2] = .002, [beta] =.06, t=.65, p=.65) and CFDS ([sr.sup.2] = .000, [beta] =.04, t=.50, p=.50) did not near statistical significance.


The results of the current study suggest that night sky watchers, especially those who are attached to the night sky, tend to be curious. They seem particularly curious about sensory stimuli as compared to ideas and a need to know or understand information. This seems reasonable considering the complex, visual nature of the night sky.

The finding that noctcaelador was related to curiosity about perceptual stimuli was consistent with previous research that suggested a relationship between noctcaelador and interest in perceptual aesthetic stimuli (Kelly, 2008). These findings are also consistent with previous research that found a relationship between need for cognition and both noctcaelador (Kelly, 2005) and curiosity (Olson et al., 1984). Together these findings suggest that both noctcaelador and curiosity might involve an interest in, and intensity of focus on, a particular visual stimulus (Kashdan et al., 2004; Kelly et al., 2006). Thus, one road to the development of noctcaelador might be curiosity about the complex, visual stimulus that is the night sky. Individuals who repeatedly engage in night sky watching due to curiosity might subsequently become attached based on sheer familiarity (Zajonc, 2001). Research is needed to test this possibility.

Future research is needed to further understand the mechanism behind the relationship between noctcaelador and curiosity. One line of investigation could center on the possibility that curiosity about the night sky was encouraged by significant others or media. Another line of study could examine brain-based mechanisms associated with how night sky watching might facilitate positive emotions (Kelly, 2003). For instance, it is possible that the cognitive activity resulting from curiosity about the night sky facilitates stimulation of the cortex of the brain resulting in regulation of negative emotions (Ohman, 2008).

Limitations of the current study include reliance on relatively brief self-report inventories and the exclusive use of a college student sample. Research including some form of behavioral measures of night sky watching and curiosity might be useful to further elucidate if the findings observed in the present study can generalize to external criterions. Replications using more diverse samples also might serve to increase the generalizability of these results to broader populations. Finally, due to the correlational nature of the study, cause-effect cannot be determined.

William E. Kelly

Robert Morris University

Don Daughtry

Texas A&M University--Kingsville


Collins, R. P., Litman, J. A., & Spielberger, C. D. (2004). The measurement of perceptual curiosity. Personality and Individual Differences, 36, 1127-1141.

Cronbach, L.J., & Meehl, P.E. (1955). Construct validity in psychological tests. Psychological Bulletin, 52, 281-302.

Holbrook, J. (2009). The sky in our lives survey 2008. Presented at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, France.

Jovanovic, V., & Gavrilov-Jovanovic, V. (2014). The good, the bad (and the ugly): The role of curiosity in subjective well-being and risky behaviors among adolescents. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 55, 38-44.

Kashdan, T.B., Gallagher, M.W., Silva, P.J., Winterstein, B.P., Breen, W.E., Terhar, D., & Steger, M.F. (2009). The Curiosity and Exploration Inventory-II: Development, factor structure, and psychometrics. Journal of Research in Personality, 43, 987-998.

Kashdan, T.B., & Roberts, J.E. (2004). Trait and state curiosity in the genesis of intimacy: Differentiation from related constructs. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 23, 792-816.

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Table 1. Correlations Between Measures
and Internal Consistencies

Scale      2          3          4          [alpha]

1. NI      .37        .30        .25        .90
2. PCS                .66        .55        .82
3. ECS                           .62        .88
4. CFDS                                     .91

Note: N = 233. NI=Noctcaelador Inventory;
PCS=Perceptual Curiosity Scale; ECS=Epistemic
Curiosity Scale; CFDS=Curiosity as a Feeling
of Deprivation Scale. All correlations significant
p < .01.
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Author:Kelly, William E.; Daughtry, Don
Article Type:Report
Date:Dec 22, 2016
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