A Conceptual Analysis of Exploratory Behavior

The “Specific-Diversive” Distinction Revisited
  • Joachim F. Wohlwill


Better go back now and start about my business. The trouble is that down the hill to the right I’ve caught sight of accented green roofs and curved gables painted jade green and vermilion. That must be Chinatown. Of course the thing to do is to take a turn through Chinatown on the way down toward the business district. I find myself walking along a narrow street in a jungle of Chinese lettering, interpreted here and there by signs announcing Chop Suey, Noodles, Genuine Chinese Store. There are ranks of curio stores, and I find myself studying windows full of Oriental goods with as much sober care as a small boy studying the window of a candy store. The street tempts you along. Beyond the curio shops there are drug stores, groceries giving out an old drenched smell like tea and camphor and lychee nuts, vegetable stores, shops of herb merchants that contain very much the same stock of goods as those Marco Polo saw with such wonder on his travels. In another window there are modern posters: raspberry-and-spinach-tinted plum-cheeked pin-up girls and stern lithographs of the Generalissimo; a few yellowing enlargements of photographs of eager-looking young broad-faced men in cadets’ uniforms. The gilt lettering amuses the eye. The decorative scroll-work of dragons and lotus flowers leads you along. You forget the time wondering how to size up the smooth Chinese faces. At the end of the street I discover that an hour has passed and that I have been walking the wrong way all the time. (Dos Passos, 1944, p. 330)


Conceptual Analysis Exploratory Behavior Exploratory Activity Collative Property Experimental Aesthetics 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bechtel, R. B. Human movement and architecture. In H. M. Proshansky, W. H. Ittleson, & L. G. Rivlin (Eds.), Environmental psychology: Man and his physical setting. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1970.Google Scholar
  2. Berlyne, D. E. Conflict, arousal and curiosity. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1960.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berlyne, D. E. Complexity and incongruity variables as determinants of exploratory choice and evaluative ratings. Canadian Journal of Psychology, 1963, 17, 274–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Berlyne, D. E. Aesthetics and psychobiology. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1971.Google Scholar
  5. Berlyne, D. E. (Ed.). Studies in the new experimental aesthetics. Washington, D.C.: Hemisphere Publishing, 1974.Google Scholar
  6. Berlyne, D. E., & Crozier, J. B. Effects of complexity and prechoice stimulation on exploratory choice. Perception and Psychophysics, 1971, 10, 242–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Berlyne, D. E., & Lawrence, G. H. Effects of complexity and incongruity variables on GSR, exploratory behavior, and verbally expressed preference. Journal of General Psychology, 1964, 71, 21–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Berlyne, D. E., & Mcdonnell, P. Effects of stimulus complexity and incongruity on duration of EEG desynchronization. Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology, 1965, 18, 156–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Buswell, G. T. How people look at pictures. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1935.Google Scholar
  10. Carr, S., & Schissler, D. The city as a trip: Perceptual selection and memory in the view from the road. Environment and Behavior, 1969, 1, 7–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Day, H. Looking time as a function of stimulus variables and individual differences. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1966, 22, 423–428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Day, H. Evaluations of subjective complexity, pleasingness and interestingness for a series of random polygons varying in complexity. Perception and Psychophysics, 1967, 2, 281–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dent, O. B., & Simmel, E. Preference for complex stimuli as an index of diversive exploration. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1968, 26, 896–898.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dorner, D., & Vehrs, W. Asthetische Befriedigung und Unbestimmtheitsreduktion. Psychologische Forschung, 1975, 38, 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dos Passos, J. San Francisco looks west. Harper’s Magazine, March 1944, 188, 328–338.Google Scholar
  16. Eckerman, C. O., & Rheingold, H. L. Infants’ exploratory responses to toys and people. Developmental Psychology, 1974, 10, 255–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ertel, S. Exploratory choice and verbal judgment. In D. E. Berlyne & K. B. Madsen (Eds.), Pleasure, reward and preference. New York: Academic, Press, 1973.Google Scholar
  18. Fowler, H. Curiosity and exploratory behavior. New York: Macmillan, 1965.Google Scholar
  19. Gale, A., Christie, B., & Penfold, V. Stimulus complexity and the occipital EEG. British Journal of Psychology, 1971, 62, 527–531.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gale, A., Bramley, P., Lucas, B., & Christie, B. Differential effect of visual and auditory complexity on the EEG: Negative hedonic value as a crucial variable? Psychonomic Science, 1972, 17, 21–24.Google Scholar
  21. Geldard, F. A. Adventures in tactile literacy. American Psychologist, 1957, 12, 115–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hutt, C. Specific and diversive exploration. In H. W. Reese & L. P. Lipsitt (Eds.), Advances in child development and behaznor (Vol. 5). New York: Academic Press, 1970.Google Scholar
  23. Keller, H., & Voss, H. G. Neugierde und Exploration. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1976.Google Scholar
  24. Klein, S. D. A developmental study of tactual perception. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Clark University, 1963. Dissertation Abstracts, 1964, 24, 2977.Google Scholar
  25. Macworth, N. H., & Morandi, A. J. The gaze selects informative details within pictures. Perception and Psychophysics, 1967, 2, 547–552.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. McCarroll, J. E., Mitchell, K. M., Carpenter, R. J., & Anderson, J. P. Analysis of three stimulation-seeking scales. Psychological Reports, 1967, 21, 853–865.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Melton, A. W. Visitor behavior in museums: Some early research in environmental design. Human Factors, 1972, 14, 393–403.Google Scholar
  28. Mourant, R. R., & Rockwell, T. H. Mapping eye-movement patterns to the visual scene in driving: An exploratory study. Human Factors, 1970, 12, 81–87.Google Scholar
  29. Neisser, U. Visual search. Scientific American, 1964, 220(6), 94–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Nunnally, J. C., & Lemond, C. Exploratory behavior and human development. In H. W. Reese (Ed.), Child development and behavior (Vol. 8). New York: Academic Press, 1973.Google Scholar
  31. Nunnally, J. C., Faw, T. T., & Bashford, M. B. Effect of degrees of incongruity on visual fixations in children and adults. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 1969, 81, 360–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Rheingold, H. L., & Eckerman, C. O. The infant separates himself from his mother. Science, 1970, 168, 78–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Schachtel, E. G. Metamorphosis: On the development of affect, perception, attention and memory. New York: Basic Books, 1959.Google Scholar
  34. Shillito, E. E. Exploratory behavior in the short-tailed vole Microtus agrestis. Behaviour, 1963, 21, 145–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Ulrich, R. Some psychophysiological effects of nature versus urban scenes. Environment and Behavior, 1981, 13 (in press).Google Scholar
  36. Weisler, A., & McCall, R. B. Exploration and play: Resume and redirection. American Psychologist, 1976, 31, 492–508.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Wohlwill, J. F. Amount of stimulus exploration and preference as differential functions of stimulus complexity. Perception and Psychophysics, 1968, 4, 307–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Wohlwill, J. F. Children’s responses to meaningful pictures varying in diversity: exploration time vs. preference. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 1975, 20, 341–351.(a)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Wohlwill, J. F. Children’s voluntary exploration and preference for tactually presented nonsense shapes differing in complexity. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 1975, 20, 159–167.(b)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Wohlwill, J. F. The place of order and uncertainty in art and environmental aesthetics. Motivation and Emotion, 1980, 4, 133–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Wohlwill, J. F., & Harris, G. Responses to congruity or contrast for man-made features in natural-recreation settings. Leisure Sciences, 1980, 3, 349–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Zuckerman, M. The sensation-seeking motive. In B. Maher (Ed.), Progress in experimental personality research (Vol. 7). New York: Academic Press, 1974.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joachim F. Wohlwill
    • 1
  1. 1.College of Human DevelopmentPennsylvania State UniversityPennsylvaniaUSA

Personalised recommendations