Serendipity as chaos or discovery - exploring the role of personality and sense of coherence

Jannica Heinström, Eero Sormunen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Introduction. Individual differences have long been said to influence serendipity. Empirically, however, robust evidence is lacking for this connection. This study addressed this research gap by linking serendipity to personality traits and sense of coherence.

Method. Data from 140 respondents was collected by an online survey. The survey measured the five-factor model personality traits, sense of coherence and serendipitously found useful and interesting information.

Analysis. The data was analysed by a general linear model regression analysis.

Results. Only 7% of variance of serendipity/usefulness and 10% of serendipity/interest could be explained by personality and sense of coherence. Usefulness was linked to sense of coherence (low comprehensibility), while interest was linked to personality (extraversion, agreeableness and low negative emotionality).

Conclusions. Individual differences in serendipity was found both related to a negative cognitive experience of information chaos and a positive affective-behavioural experience of discovery. Lack of control over the information flow could lead to a sense that acquisition of useful information is governed by chance rather than conscious efforts. Activity, social connectedness and positive emotionality, in turn, would increase the likelihood to discover interesting information.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberisic2001
Number of pages25
JournalInformation Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed
EventInformation Behaviour Conference (ISIC) -
Duration: 28 Sep 20201 Oct 2020


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