Sensation Seeking

Sensation Seeking

"Sensation seeking is a personality trait defined by the search for experiences and feelings, that are varied, novel, complex and intense, and by the readiness to take physical, social, legal, and financial risks for the sake of such experiences." --Marvin Zuckerman


What is Sensation Seeking?

This video explains the parts of sensation seeking.

Sensation seeking is a key research interest of Dr. Carter’s. First described in the 1960s, sensation seeking is evident everywhere in today’s social-media-infused society. YouTube is filled with video clips of “ordinary” people doing extraordinarily risky stunts for the sheer thrill of it. These modern-day daredevils are in search of a buzz that makes them feel more alive. From the clearly outrageous antics shown on the Jackass television series and movies, to the urge we all have for complex and exciting experiences, sensation seeking is a personality trait that can result in either harmless fun or potentially serious trouble.

Dr. Carter is particularly interested in the high sensation seeking (HSS) personality, those drawn to extreme adventure activities such as skydiving, snowboarding, and mountain climbing, or who take unnecessary risks via addictions, dangerous driving, and inappropriate social interactions.

Sensation seeking has four components:

  • Thrill and adventure seeking- quest for risk
  • Experience seeking- love of new sensations
  • Disinhibition- ability to be unrestrained
  • Boredom susceptibility- dislike for repetition

Evidence has shown that sensation seeking has a genetic component and is linked to several hormones and neurotransmitters. Dr. Carter’s research explores the problems, psychology, and neuroscience behind the HSS personality, those who crave and seek out exotic and intense experiences even when physical or social risks are involved. 

Are you a thrill seeker – or a chill seeker?

Take a short sensation seeking survey

You can interpret your score using this scale:

Score        Profile

0-16           Low Sensation Seeking
17-27          Medium Sensation Seeking
28-40         High Sensation Seeking

For each sub-scale
0-3             Low
4-6             Medium
7-10            High

You can share your story about sensation seeking by filling out the form below. All identifying information from your stories will remain private. You may be contacted for a short telephone interview.