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Let's talk about New Experiences!

All around the world, we are constantly learning, correcting, growing, and evolving. In alignment with our co-relational model, and our belief in co-development with our clients and our supporters, at The Calgary Therapy Institute, we encourage this growth, both individually and as a community.

Have you tried something new lately?

You know that feeling? When you’ve finally committed to that thing that you’ve been wanting to do, but have been scared to start, or circumstantially you were forced to learn something new? This could look like starting a new position for work, a new volunteer experience, or education program, going traveling for the first time, trying out therapy, telling someone you love them for the first time, learning to drive a car, how to change a tire, or how to operate a computer. There are so many things out there that could be regular, everyday things for one person, and feel like massive obstacles or learning curves for another.

What comes to mind when you reflect on a time you started something new?

For me, the process seems to go as follows: initial avoidance, commitment, nerves leading up to the start, discomfort, stress, coping with these feelings. Then, slowly, confidence building, happiness, excitement, and finally, growth. It kind of looks something like this:

Figure 1: [Photograph of The Learning Pit]. (n.d.) Miss Mac's Classroom. Retrieved February 08, 2023, from

Knowledge Emotions

Interestingly, there is a group of emotions specifically associated with learning, exploring, and reflecting. We call these “knowledge emotions,” and they have four main members: surprise, interest, confusion, and awe. According to Silvia (2023), these are considered knowledge emotions for two reasons:

  1. These emotions are evoked at times when something happens that defies what an individual believes and / or expected, and

  2. These emotions are building blocks for knowledge about the world around us

So, what exactly are each of these emotions?

  • Surprise is an emotion that helps people to respond to events quickly. This is due to the mind evacuating itself of what was happening previously and focuses the individual’s attention on the source of surprise.

  • Interest is the driving force behind what motivates exploration and learning in our everyday lives. Similarly to surprise, interest will be evoked by things that are “unexpected, unfamiliar, novel, and / [or] complex” (Berlyne, 1960; Hidi & Renninger, 2006; Silvia, 2008). A variety of research has shown that interest is correlated to the promotion of faster learning and a more thorough understanding of the content, and makes learning enjoyable.

  • Confusion develops when an individual assesses a situation as unfamiliar and complicated. According to VanLehn et at., impasse-driven learning is an approach to learning where confusion drives and stimulates the student to actively problem solve and listen to what they’re being taught.

  • Awe, as defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, “an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime.” An individual may be in awe for two reasons:

    1. The event provoking awe within in an individual is something they have never encountered, experienced, or been a part of before, or

    2. The individual modifies their cognition, or understanding, due to the information gained through experience.

Awe is a motivational tool for people to interact with events, people, places, and things outside of their everyday lives.

Beyond the emotional component of learning something new, there are additionally cognitive, and mental health benefits to learning and participating in new experiences.

  • We have cognitive learning – a learning style that emphasizes the importance and actively works to maximize your brain’s potential. This style of learning includes comprehension, memory, and application.

Valamis (2022) posits that the main 6 benefits of cognitive learning include: learning enhancement, confidence boosting, enhances comprehension, and problem-solving skills, helps the individual to learn new things faster, and teaches the individual to think abstractly.

  • And we have lifelong learners – individuals who are intentional about learning, both informally and formally, throughout the lifespan to develop oneself professionally, or for self-fulfillment (Parkhurst, 2022).

Parkhurst (2022) suggests that research has shown lifelong learning is positively associated to higher levels of self-esteem, confidence, social connection, positivity, and accomplishment!

For those curious, interested, and seeking further education – we will be launching our “traumatology series” which looks at the impact of traumatic experiences, and the experience of living with trauma. We will provide psychological strategies and ideas that can help people self-determine their healing as they embrace finding practices that help them through their process of reclaiming their wellness.

We are additionally pondering a few summer camps, intensive summer trainings and ongoing research opportunities to be facilitated through and within our clinic. Keep your eyes peeled for learning opportunities within!

We look forward to the journey with you!

The CTI Team


Berlyne, D.E. (1960). Conflict, arousal, and curiosity. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Hidi, S., Renninger, K.A. (2006). The four-phase model of interest development. Educational Psychologist, 41, 111-127

Marriam-Webster. (n.d.) Awe. In dictionary. Retrieved February 9, 2023, from

Parkhurst, E. (2022). The Benefits of Being a Lifelong Learner. Mental Health Education. UtahStateUniversity. Retrieved February 9, 2023, from

Silvia, P. J. (2008). Interest – The curious emotion. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17, 57-60

Silvia, P. J. (2023). Knowledge Emotions: feelings that foster learning, exploring, and reflecting. In R. Biswas-Diener & E. Diener (Eds), Noba textbook series: Psychology. Champaign, IL: DEF publishers. Retrieved from

Valamis. (2022, October). Cognitive learning theory: Benefits, strategies and examples. Valamis. Retrieved February 9, 2023, from

VanLehn, K., Siler, S., Murray, C., Yamauchi, T., & Baggett, W. (2003). Why do only some events cause learning during human tutoring? Cognition and Instruction, 21, 209-249

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