Journal of Gerontology & Geriatric Medicine Category: Medical Type: Research Article

Discovering the Value of Novelty: Reconceptualising the Measurement of Novel Experience Preference

Canaan Tsabary1* and Louise Hopper1
1 School of psychology, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland

*Corresponding Author(s):
Canaan Tsabary
School Of Psychology, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland

Received Date: Mar 13, 2024
Accepted Date: Mar 26, 2024
Published Date: Apr 02, 2024


This paper addresses the intricate interplay between routine and novelty in the well-being of older adults, challenging the dichotomy often imposed on these concepts. Existing literature highlights the beneficial outcomes associated with both routine and novel experiences for older adults yet fails to provide a comprehensive and contemporary measure of novel experience preference. This research delves into the subjectivity and multidimensionality of novelty, emphasising the need for a nuanced understanding beyond sensationalised thrill-seeking behaviours. 

The authors present the Novel Experience Wishes and Willingness Scale (NEWW Scale), a novel measure encompassing three dimensions: Need for Planning in Novelty (NPN), Deliberate or Adventitious Novelty (DAN), and Vicarious Exploration of Novelty (VEN). The scale, validated through exploratory factor analysis, captures the diverse ways individuals prefer and engage with novel experiences. The study challenges the outdated and narrow measures prevalent in the field, offering a contemporary tool applicable across diverse adult populations. Recognising the potential benefits of novelty as a universal psychological need, the authors underscore the importance of embracing subjectivity and multidimensionality in understanding and promoting well-being in older adults. The paper addresses the limitations of existing measures, such as Pearson’s Novelty-Experiencing Scale, advocating for a contemporary tool applicable across diverse adult populations. The study opens avenues for further research, emphasising the role of experiential preferences in fostering happiness and fulfilment, particularly in an ageing global population.


Novelty; Novelty measurement; Older Adults; Routine; Well-being

Plain Language Summary

This research explores how routine and new experiences impact the happiness of older adults, challenging the idea that they are opposites. Current studies show that both sticking to a routine and trying new things are good for older adults, but there's no modern and comprehensive way to measure their preference for new experiences. This study goes deeper into the personal and varied aspects of new experiences, moving beyond just exciting activities. 

The authors introduce the Novel Experience Wishes and Willingness Scale (NEWW Scale), a new way to measure how people like different types of new experiences. It has three parts: one looks at how much people like planning new things (Need for Planning in Novelty - NPN), another sees if people actively seek out new experiences or if they happen by chance (Deliberate or Adventitious Novelty - DAN), and the last part explores if people enjoy new things by watching others or imagining them (Vicarious Exploration of Novelty - VEN). This scale, tested and proven effective, challenges old-fashioned methods and can be used for all kinds of people. 

Understanding that everyone has their unique view on what new experiences mean and that there's more to it than just seeking thrills is crucial. The research suggests that this new perspective and tool could improve the well-being of older adults worldwide by helping them find joy and fulfilment in their unique preferences for new experiences.

Routine & Novelty

Drawing concrete lessons from the research surrounding the well-being of older adults can be challenging. Oftentimes, the differing perspectives on how best to sustain physical and mental health into old age can appear to be at odds. The question of routine versus novelty (i.e., consistency and predictability across daily activities, compared to experiencing the new and unfamiliar) is one such topic that is subject to contrasting opinions and approaches, and people vary greatly in their preferences in this regard [1]. For many individuals, maintaining a consistent routine is integral to their daily living; it provides a sense of safety and security, and it helps to avoid laziness, aimlessness, and unpredictability. For many others, however, a feeling of unpredictability in life is more desirable. Routine may be viewed by these individuals as infringing upon their autonomy and flexibility, whereas the absence of a structured routine can facilitate exploration and spontaneity. If it were only a matter of differing preferences, variation across individuals would be of little interest here; however, the story is more complex than that. It has been strongly established that maintaining an organised routine as well as undertaking novel experiences both elicit important outcomes for older adults’ well-being. Routine has been known to, among other things, bolster physical functioning [2], reduce stress and anxiety [3], and support medication adherence [4]. On the other hand, the regular experience of novelty is associated with increased life satisfaction [5], the maintenance of healthy and happy relationships [6] and acts as a buffer against cognitive decline in old age [7]. 

It seems that there is a significant trade-off here. Ought one adopt a strict, organised daily routine and forgo the myriad benefits of experiencing novelty? Or perhaps opt for a life full of spontaneous and novel experiences, at the expense of all structure and organisation? Fortunately, neither of these choices (which do not require familiarity with the literature to be deemed suboptimal) is necessary. The truth of the matter is that, despite what may seem to be the case at first glance, routine and novelty are by no means mutually exclusive concepts. Incorporating novel experiences into one’s life ought not to disturb the routines they already have in place – and assuming a more organised routine does not exclude the potential for novelty. Considering these concepts as being opposed to each other can be harmful, and any attempt to enhance older adults’ well-being and enjoyment of life should heed the fact that both can be maintained in life harmoniously [8]. This finding supports that of Heintzelman and King [9] whose research emphasised that engaging in routines seems to foster meaning in life, but that novel experiences do not seem to interrupt it, and may act as a complement rather than a threat. Realising that novelty does not necessitate the absence of routine, and that routine does not necessitate the absence of novelty, opens the door to wonderful opportunities for positive change.

The Subjectivity & Multidimensionality of Novelty

Thinking along these lines and recognising that the advantages of an organised life need not be sacrificed in promoting diversity of experience, it seems that the potential for enhancing well-being through encouraging novelty is substantial. In fact, its importance cannot be understated; exposure to new and unfamiliar experiences has been argued to be a “fundamental and universal psychological need” [10,11]. This emphasis on universality highlights that there are benefits for everyone, regardless of individual preferences or tendencies. Depending on one’s persuasion, this claim may come across as agreeable and intuitive, or quite the opposite. Perhaps some of the ideas conjured when considering novelty - those of thrilling skydives, extreme sports, and arduous hiking trails - fall markedly outside the reader’s interests, or desires. One might wonder about those who find these new activities uncomfortable, challenging, or inaccessible due to the absence of requisite resources or abilities. This is a concern especially pertinent to those struggling with physical impairment or immobility in their older years. However, this concern marks another important (and perniciously pervasive) misconception about what it means for an experience to be novel. 

It is important to emphasise that subjectivity is of utmost importance in this context. Novelty is not attributed to an event because of any particular experiential characteristics and is not comprised (necessarily) of those adrenaline-seeking behaviours stereotypically associated with the term; the degree of novelty attributed to an experience is a function of the discrepancy between the given experience and an individual’s previous life experiences [12]. That is, the sensation of novelty is tantamount to unfamiliarity. This, importantly, means something different to everyone. It is well understood that the extent to which one is motivated to pursue novelty differs for every individual [13], but critically, the types of novel experiences that people are interested in vary greatly, and in multiple ways. The content, frequency, duration, planning, and exertion associated with any given experience type may differ from another, but this does not make either more inherently ‘novel’. 

In addition to this important sense of subjectivity, our pilot study [8] provided support for the multidimensionality of the construct. This means that novelty preference as a construct embodies distinct but related facets; it cannot be completely understood or measured by a single attribute. Acknowledging this multifaceted nature is crucial for practical reasons; for example, older adults may face constraints in the activities that are accessible or desirable to them and being able to identify the elements of novel experiences that they take pleasure in - and which are possible - is paramount. For example, the themes that were generated from our qualitative analysis suggested that people differ in their novel experience preference in at least three ways: firstly, there is the concept of “spontaneous novelty,” which refers to the varying degree to which individuals enjoy the element of surprise or unpredictability in a new experience. For some people spontaneity and deviation from routine are necessary criteria for a sensation of novelty to be felt. Second, is ‘vicarious novelty’, whereby people experience novelty through the experiences of other people, witnessing friends or family experience something new and meaningful, for example. This can also take place through a cognitive actor; by imagining oneself engaged in a novel experience; or perhaps by immersing oneself in a film/book. Finally, people differ in their preference for ‘organised novelty’, the way in which new experiences are actively sought out and implemented, systematically, into one’s routine. This is an important dimension which demonstrates the reconcilability between novelty and routine. At the risk of belabouring the point, the two can evidently be complementary and the relationship between structure and diversity of experience need not be a zero-sum game. 

Embracing this subjectivity and multidimensionality may act as an important stepping stone towards establishing the universal benefits associated with novelty. For example; consider an individual high in neuroticism, who is averse to uncertainty and surprise. If we were to treat novel experience preference as a unidimensional construct, this individual may ostensibly seem to possess very little motivation to diversify their daily experiences, and psychological tools may indicate that do not generally benefit from novelty. However, breaking the construct down, it may be the case that this person may enjoy – and benefit more from - structuring novel experiences into their routine, in an organised and predictable manner (as opposed to spontaneous novel experiences). There are clear benefits, therefore, to parsing the concept into its constituent dimensions.

The State of the Art

These key aspects of novelty have been insufficiently recognised in the psychological literature. Despite its value for enhancing well-being, the concept has remained largely underdeveloped and its theory has not undergone any significant advancement over the past several decades; unfortunately, this inertia has led to a significant obsoleteness in our current conceptualisation of people’s novel experience preferences. Existing measures are typically designed to target sensation-seeking, or novelty need satisfaction [10], as opposed to one’s preferences for different types of new experiences. Perhaps the most widely used of these scales is Zuckerman’s Sensation Seeking Scale [14]; however, this has received much criticism for its “unreliability, length, colloquialisms, and forced-choice response format” [15,16]. Shorter versions of this scale have been validated; however, these tools are most often used in populations of teenagers and young adults [16]. Foremost, though, is the fact that these tools capture a narrow conceptualisation of novelty that ignores the multi-dimensional nature of the construct to the individual, particularly as we age and gain more experience. 

The exception to this rule is the Novelty-Experiencing Scale [12], which measures preferences for different novelty subtypes with a 2x2 model (external sensation, internal sensation, internal cognitive, and external cognitive). However, this measure is outdated, narrow, and, being developed from research with exclusively male personnel (mean age =19.19) at Lackland Air Force Base, USA, has been justly criticised as being culturally biased [17]. Its items are rated on a 2-point forced-choice response scale and include, for example: ‘Riding the rapids in a swift-moving stream’, ‘Watching a colourful bullfight in Spain’, ‘Swinging on a vine across a river filled with snakes’, and ‘Going on a safari in Africa to hunt lions’. Though these are some of the more extreme items, it is clear that the instrument fails to capture the nuances of novel experience preference and confounds the idea of novelty with something approximating thrill-seeking (which is more appropriate for a sensation-seeking scale). It is clearly not suitable for use within a diverse adult population; and does little to support research promoting the well-being of older adults. To uncover important data as to how preferences for novelty change with age and how best to tailor interventions aimed at maintaining cognitive, health, promoting social interaction, encouraging physical activity, etc., we must have a contemporary measure of novel experience preference, which can be used by people in all stages of life.

Constructing a Contemporary Measure

We have already taken the first important steps in this endeavour. The current authors conducted an exploratory study which has offered preliminary evidence for the validity and reliability of a measure for novel experience preference, suitable for use among a general adult population; we call it the Novel Experience Wishes and Willingness Scale - or, for short - the NEWW Scale. After consulting with experts, we created 30 items which relate to the three aforementioned dimensions generated from the thematic analysis of our qualitative pilot study (that of organised, spontaneous, and vicarious novelty). Using exploratory factor analysis with a sample of adults ranging from 18 to 80 years of age (n=171), principal component analysis revealed a three-factor solution, which was eventually whittled down – based on the items’ factor loadings - to 15 items. Although the factors differed slightly from the initially hypothesised dimensions, they preserved their core meaning in a more cohesive way. For this measure, participants ranked each item (e.g., “I will order something off a menu that I have never heard of before”) on a Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). The full measure and the factor loadings can be found in the Supplementary Material section. As part of this research, we also measured various individual differences (including personality; locus of control; intolerance of uncertainty; impulsiveness; and empathy) and demographic data (including age, gender, education level, working status, marital status and parental status); and investigated which of these characteristics predicted different patterns of novel experience preference.

The Scale and its Dimensions

NPN: The factor ‘Need for Planning in Novelty’ (NPN) consists of four items and pertains to the preference for prearrangement, structure, and organisation in a novel experience. It neatly captures the non-orthogonal relationship between the original Organised versus Spontaneous novelty dimensions (i.e., a higher preference for spontaneity is analogous to a lower preference for organisation). It also emphasises the dichotomy between the preferences for feeling that the element of surprise is an important aspect of novelty, and the pleasant feeling of anticipation/excitement for an upcoming experience; an idea which also emerged in our pilot study [8]. A higher score in this subscale indicates a stronger preference for planning, and vice versa. Our analysis showed that conscientiousness and neuroticism were associated with a higher need for planning in novelty, which attests to its construct validity; as conscientiousness includes sub-traits such as orderliness and cautiousness [18,19], while those high in neuroticism are more averse to the unknown [20]. 

DAN: The next factor was labelled ‘Deliberate or Adventitious Novelty’ (DAN) and consisted of five items. This describes the degree to which a person actively incorporates/seeks out novelty in their life. A higher score in this subscale indicates a more passive (or adventitious) approach to novel experiences; that novelty is more likely to happen to a person, rather than being actively pursued. The items in this dimension emphasise the power of external circumstances in dictating the presence/absence of new experiences in one’s life. The item with the strongest (negative) factor loading in this dimension (-0.69) summarises the concept nicely: “I deliberately incorporate new experiences into my routine”. Our results revealed that older age is negatively associated with an adventitious approach; in other words, ageing is linked with a more active pursuit of novelty. This reflects our previous qualitative findings, wherein the group of older adults highlighted that novelty is more easily accessible and even an inextricable part of life when one is young and, as one gets older, more effort is required to experience new things. Openness and extraversion were also found to be negative predictors (i.e., the more open or extraverted one is, the more they actively pursue novelty). These results make sense in light of previous research [21] and support the construct validity of this factor. 

VEN: The largest factor to emerge was labelled ‘Vicarious Exploration of Novelty’ (VEN) and comprised six items. It refers to the idea of experiencing new things through the observation of other’s actions/through one’s imaginings. Indicative items include, for example: “I often imagine what it would be like to live in a different place” and “I enjoy looking at online videos of people doing things that I've never done”. These notions of imagination and social vicariousness share not only a conceptual connection but a significant neural intersection. Meta-analytic data from 166 studies demonstrates an important overlap in the brain regions involved in both daydreaming and social cognitive processes. This research provides a neuroscientific basis for the umbrella of concepts involved in vicarious novel experiences. 

This dimension mapped reasonably neatly onto the initially hypothesised dimension of vicarious novelty; however, it was characterised by an important divergence from the original construct. In a way that appears perplexing at first, this dimension contains items which pertain to impulse shopping (“I am prone to impulse purchases” and “I am likely to buy an item that caught my eye as I was passing a shopfront”). These are ostensibly more appropriate for the subscale measuring spontaneity rather than vicarious experience. It is noteworthy, however, that these were the only two items that specifically relate to shopping, and that none of the several other impulsivity-related items loaded onto this factor. This suggests that the idea of shopping/products - and not the impulsivity of the behaviours - is the aspect of interest here. This concept arose briefly during the pilot study; in discussing what novelty means to them, the participants broached the topic of enjoying learning how objects work, decorating their living space, and researching new products on the market. This idea of ‘substantial novelty’ (relating to substance or matter) can be seen as akin to vicarious exploration; it is novelty which is experienced through another medium, not through empathising or imagining, in this case, but through interaction with, for lack of a better term, things. Further research is necessary in order to establish the validity of this emergent construct.

The regression analysis revealed that empathy and extraversion were correlated with a higher score in this factor; this corroborates the construct validity of this dimension, which has a highly empathetic and social component. Furthermore, impulsiveness was also found to be associated with a higher score; however, this finding is likely a confoundment due to the impulsivity-related phraseology of the aforementioned shopping items (see Supplementary Material).

Future Directions

While this research has offered promising advancements in the measurement of novel experience preference, this piece represents only the preliminary results of our work. At the time of writing, we are currently in the process of conducting a confirmatory factor analysis, establishing the test-retest reliability of the scale, and further testing its validity. In this research, we are also further exploring the concept of substantial novelty, and how it relates to the vicarious exploration of novelty. Through this endeavour, we intend to produce a measure of experiential preference which avoids the common mistakes of confounding novelty with narrow thrill-seeking behaviours; which contains contemporary and accessible subject matter (with no reference to hunting lions); and which is inclusive of all ages. This development may encourage a fruitful avenue of research to blossom within the context of older adults’ well-being and flourishing. We hope that, by gaining an unbiased understanding of one’s experiential preferences, the benefits of novelty can be reaped indiscriminately, and people can be more capable of recognising and modifying their lifestyles to bolster their happiness. 

The development of this measure also holds the potential to further enhance our understanding of the advantages associated with experiencing novelty in older age. For example, future research may apply both the NEWW scale and the NNSS [10] in tandem, in order to examine whether there is a relationship between certain novelty preferences and Novelty Need Satisfaction (NNS); e.g., whether a passive approach to experiencing new things shows low or high satisfaction with novelty needs - both findings may be possible for various reasons. These measures may also be combined with other metrics, such as life satisfaction/fulfilment [22], to answer important research questions about the benefits of novel experiences for people who differ in their preferences. For example, researchers should investigate whether a preference for spontaneous novel experiences (low NPN) and high NNS leads to a more fulfilling life than a preference for organised novel experiences (high NPN) with a high NNS. This is only a handful of potential inquiries that the development of this scale may help to pave the way for. In our ageing world population, the time is ripe for this important concept to undergo a necessary reformation and to receive more attention in psychological research efforts. This article has been written for the express purpose of opening this conversation to a wider audience and hopefully stimulating readers’ consideration for this largely forgotten field. We intend here to broach the debate surrounding the various aspects of novel experiences; probing people to consider what makes a new experience desirable, and what value can be drawn from exploring the unusual. Boredom in old age can be a dangerous and destructive thing [23] and, though we by no means advocate for the abandonment of the safe and familiar, uncovering what novelty truly means may help to enrich the experiences of people in their golden years; we hope that the work we are engaged in will help to bring this into the light.


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Supplementary Material

The Novel Experience Wishes and Willingness (NEWW) Scale

Note. Factor loadings >.4 are in boldface.


Factor loading

Scale item











I often imagine what it would be like to live in a different place






I often daydream about things I've never done/places I've never been before






I am prone to impulse purchases






I am likely to buy an item that caught my eye as I was passing a shopfront






Re-watching a film I have already seen feels novel if I am watching it with someone who hasn't seen it






I enjoy looking at online videos of people doing things that I've never done






I deliberately incorporate new experiences into my routine






I dedicate a certain day of the week/month/year to doing something out of the ordinary






I will order something off a menu that I have never heard of before






New and exciting events are usually limited to special occasions






My experiences of novelty tend to fall on the same day of the week as each other






I must research and plan before booking a holiday






When going on holiday, I like to have a plan/itinerary






I would describe myself as a "go with the flow" kind of person






Spending too long organising something takes the fun out of it






Citation: Tsabary C, Hopper L (2024) Discovering the Value of Novelty: Reconceptualising the Measurement of Novel Experience Preference. J Gerontol Geriatr Med 10: 202.

Copyright: © 2024  Canaan Tsabary, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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