Universiteit Leiden

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PhD project

Understanding emergence and growth of interests in daily life

How are interests embedded and experienced in daily life and to what extent can their origin and development be understood in terms of this contextualization?

2014 - 2019


  • E.M. Slot MSc - PhD candidate
  • prof.dr. T. Wubbels - supervisor
  • prof.dr. S.F. Akkerman - supervisor
  • Dr. L.H. Bronkhorst - co-supervisor


Interest development is considered to be crucial for both human wellbeing and learning, especially in adolescence when the development of self (Who am I? What do I like to when I am grown up?) becomes a major life task. However, we know surprisingly little on how interests emerge and develop in adolescent’ daily lives. Since school drop-out rates are still considered to be too large in the Netherlands, and teachers are complaining about disengaged, unmotivated students who find it increasingly difficult to make (future-related) choices (e.g. the ‘profielkeuze’), we deem it important to unravel how multiple, parallel existing interests emerge and develop in interaction with family and peer contexts.  

Research questions

This project consists of two parts, each comprised of two studies. The first part tries to shed light on the emergence of interests in daily life. What constitutes the experience of interest? In other words, why do adolescents experience specific content as interesting? And what interests do adolescents actually engage in, both in and out of school, in their daily lives? To what extent are interests context-specific or do they appear across contexts?

The second part of the research project focuses on development of individual interests, or more specifically, the change and stability in growth over time in relation to the contextualization that is unraveled in the first two studies. What role do social, cognitive and material resources play in the development of individual interests? And is it possible to trace different developmental ‘routes’ that follow from interaction with these resources?    


In order to unravel the origin and development of multiple interests in multiple daily life settings, we applied a smartphone application that assesses activities multiple times a day, also referred to as the ‘experience sampling method’. We followed 75 individuals, starting in Autumn 2015, when they just started grade 9, until the Summer of 2017, when they just finished grade 10.

This rich ecological data enables us to provide insights for educational practice on how to align the school curriculum  better to the daily life interests of adolescents. 

Foto: David R. Frazier / Photo Researchers / Universal Images Group

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