Novelty seeking

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In psychology, novelty seeking (NS) is a personality trait associated with exploratory activity in response to novel stimulation, impulsive decision making, extravagance in approach to reward cues, quick loss of temper, and avoidance of frustration.[1] That is, Novelty seeking (or sensation seeking) refers to the tendency to pursue new experiences with intense emotional sensations. It is a multifaceted behavioral construct that includes thrill seeking, novelty preference, risk taking, harm avoidance, and reward dependence. The novelty-seeking trait is considered a heritable tendency of individuals to take risks for the purpose of achieving stimulation and seeking new environments and situations that make their experiences more intense. This trait has been associated with the level of motive and excitement in response to novelty. Persons with high levels of novelty seeking have been described as more impulsive and disorderly than low novelty seekers and have a higher propensity to get involved in risky activities, such as starting to misuse drugs, engaging in risky sexual activities, and suffering accidental injuries.[2] It is measured in the Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire as well as the later version Temperament and Character Inventory and is considered one of the temperament dimensions of personality. Like the other temperament dimensions, it has been found to be highly heritable. Another related term, Variety seeking or variety-seeking buying behavior describes a consumer's desire to search for alternative products even if she or he is satisfied with a current product. For example, someone may drink tea with lunch one day but choose orange juice the next day specifically to get something different.[3] High NS has been suggested to be related to low dopaminergic activity.[4]

In the revised version of the Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI-R) novelty seeking consists of the following four subscales:

  1. Exploratory excitability (NS1)
  2. Impulsiveness (NS2)
  3. Extravagance (NS3)[5]
  4. Disorderliness (NS4)

Relationship to other personality traits[edit]

A research study[6] found that Novelty seeking had inverse relationships with other Temperament and Character Inventory dimensions, particularly harm avoidance and to a more moderate extent self-directedness and self-transcendence. Novelty seeking is positively associated with the five factor model trait of extraversion and to a lesser extent openness to experience and is inversely associated with conscientiousness. Novelty seeking is positively related to Impulsive sensation seeking from Zuckerman's Alternative five model of personality and with psychoticism in Eysenck's model.[6] When novelty seeking is defined as a decision process (i.e. in terms of the tradeoff between foregoing a familiar choice option in favor of deciding to explore a novel choice option), dopamine is directly shown to increase novelty seeking behavior.[7] Specifically, blockade of the dopamine transporter, causing a rise in extracellular dopamine levels, increases the propensity of monkeys to select novel over familiar choice options.



Although the exact causes for novelty seeking behaviors is unknown, there may be a link to genetics. Studies have found an area on the Dopamine receptor D4 gene on chromosome 11 that is characterized by several repeats in a particular base sequence. Multiple studies have identified a link to genetics, in particular one conducted by Dr. Benjamin and colleagues, where individuals who had longer alleles of this gene had higher novelty-seeking scores than individuals with the shorter allele.[8] In another study relating to the gene and financial risk, Dr. Dreber and colleagues found a correlation between increased risk-taking and the DRD4 gene in young males.[9] Although there are studies that support the link between NS and dopaminergic activity via DRD4, there are also studies that do not exhibit a strong correlation. The importance of DRD4 in novelty seeking is yet to be confirmed conclusively.


In addition to potential heredity, novelty seeking behaviors are seen with the modulation of dopamine. The overall effect of dopamine when exposed to a novel stimuli is a mass release of the neurotransmitter in reward systems of the brain including the mesolimbic pathway.[10] The mesolimbic pathway is active in every type of addiction and is involved with reinforcement. Because of this activation in the brain, NS has been linked to personality disorders as well as substance abuse and other addictive behaviors. DRD4 receptors are highly expressed in areas of the limbic system associated with emotion and cognition. SNPs such as rs4680 have also been examined within this realm of study.


It is important to note the individual's age with novelty seeking. This behavior will decrease with time, especially as the brains of adolescents and young adults finalize in development. Possible factors of variation include gender, ethnicity, temperament and environment[citation needed].

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cloninger, C.R.; Svrakic, DM; Przybeck, TR (December 1993). "A psychobiological model of temperament and character". Archives of General Psychiatry. 50 (12): 975–90. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1993.01820240059008. PMID 8250684.
  2. ^ Arenas, M. C.; Manzanedo, C. (2016). "Novelty Seeking". Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences. pp. 1–4. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-28099-8_1095-1. ISBN 978-3-319-28099-8. S2CID 243640948.
  3. ^ "Variety Seeking | Universal Marketing Dictionary". 24 May 2018.
  4. ^ C. R. Cloninger (Autumn 1986). "A unified biosocial theory of personality and its role in the development of anxiety states". Psychiatric Developments. 4 (3): 167–226. PMID 3809156.
  5. ^ Loranger, Armand Walter (1997). Assessment and diagnosis of personality disorders. Cambridge University Press. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-521-58043-4.
  6. ^ a b De Fruyt, F.; Van De Wiele, L.; Van Heeringen, C. (2000). "Cloninger's Psychobiological Model of Temperament and Character and the Five-Factor Model of Personality". Personality and Individual Differences. 29 (3): 441–452. doi:10.1016/S0191-8869(99)00204-4.
  7. ^ Costa, Vincent D.; Tran, Valery L.; Turchi, Janita; Averbeck, Bruno B. (2014). "Dopamine modulates novelty seeking behavior during decision making". Behavioral Neuroscience. 128 (4): 413–424. doi:10.1037/a0037128. PMC 5861725. PMID 24911320.
  8. ^ Lusher, JM; Chandler, C; Ball, D (September 2001). "Dopamine D4 receptor gene (DRD4) is associated with Novelty Seeking (NS) and substance abuse: the saga continues…". Molecular Psychiatry. 6 (5): 497–499. doi:10.1038/ PMID 11526461. S2CID 28201048.
  9. ^ McKusick, Victor A.; Hurko, Orest; Black, John Logan III; Kniffin, Cassandra L. (4 May 2010). "Novelty Seeking Personality Trait". Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man. Johns Hopkins University.
  10. ^ Patoine, Brenda (13 October 2009). "Desperately Seeking Sensation: Fear, Reward, and the Human Need for Novelty: Neuroscience Begins to Shine Light on the Neural Basis of Sensation-Seeking". The Dana Foundation.