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I've been reading about saliency and wondering about its relationship to human interests, particularly hobbies or fields of study. I am thinking that there are typically patterns in what kinds of things humans enjoy spending their cognitive resources on.

My first question: What is the mechanism behind one's fascination in a topic? Are 'personal interests' related to the incentive saliency in reward-prediction? If so, how? For example, might we choose to explore topics that we are naturally good at, under the (perhaps unconscious) assumption that we might be rewarded for what we can produce from our efforts, thus increasing incentive and interest in the topic? Or, if there is an incentive, would it mostly be a cultural one?

My second question: is there scientific evidence to support that females are more 'naturally' interested in human endeavors / abstracting within the real of human nature, whereas men are more 'naturally' interested in objects / abstracting outside the realm of humanity?

Note that I'm primarily interested in what facilitates interest in concrete topics, and less interested in the mechanisms behind human attraction, unless they are relevant to how interest in concrete topics is formed.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think this question is too broad right now because the question is tightly packed with assumptions. For example: there is a mechanism driving "fascination"; individuals are "naturally good" at different domains in some universal and non-trivial sense; "human endeavors-nonhuman endeavors" is a coherent dichotomy, etc. There's a lot of unpacking to do before the core question (something like, "How do we develop interests?") can be answered, IMO. $\endgroup$ – Christian Hummeluhr Sep 16 '15 at 9:42