Toward a dimensional model of vocational interests

Rong Su, Louis Tay, Hsin Ya Liao, Qi Zhang, James Rounds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Growing evidence on the predictive validity of vocational interests for job performance calls for greater consideration of interest assessment in organizations. However, a consensus on the fundamental dimensions of interests that are aligned with the contemporary world of work is still lacking. In the current research, we developed an organizing framework of vocational interests and empirically validated an 8-dimension model (SETPOINT: Health Science, Creative Expression, Technology, People, Organization, Influence, Nature, and Things). We propose that interests are structured hierarchically, with preferences for specific work activities at the lowest level (assessed using interest items), basic interests for homogeneous classes of activities at the intermediate level (assessed using basic interest scales), and broad-band interest dimensions describing general tendencies of individuals to be drawn to or motivated by broad types of work environments at the top. To derive broad-band interest dimensions, it is necessary to base it on a comprehensive range of content-specific basic interest constructs. In Study 1, we conducted an extensive review of existing basic interest scales and developed a new assessment of basic interests with 41 homogeneous scales across two samples. In Study 2, we demonstrated the structural validity of the proposed dimensional model using second-order confirmatory factor analysis and exploratory structural equation modeling with a large, diverse sample of working adults and supported its predictive validity for occupational membership in new and traditional sectors of work. We discuss implications from the current findings for building interest theory, using interest assessment for organizational research, and evaluating interest structure with appropriate methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)690-714
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2019


  • Basic interests
  • Broad-band interest dimensions
  • Exploratory structural equation modeling (ESEM)
  • Second-order confirmatory factor analysis (CFA)
  • Vocational interests

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology


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