provoke, in this connection, implies rather generally an arousing to some action or feeling thought-provoking; excite suggests a more powerful or profound stirring or moving of the thoughts or emotions it excites my imagination; stimulate implies arousing to increased activity as if by goading or pricking and often connotes bringing out of a state of inactivity or indifference to stimulate one's enthusiasm; pique suggests stimulating as if by irritating mildly to pique one's curiosity
These verbs mean to move a person to action or feeling or to summon something into being by so moving a person. Provoke often merely states the consequences produced: “Let my presumption not provoke thy wrath” (Shakespeare). “A situation which in the country would have provoked meetings” (John Galsworthy). To incite is to provoke and urge on: Members of the opposition incited the insurrection.Excite implies a strong or emotional reaction: The movie will fail; the plot excites little interest or curiosity.Stimulate suggests renewed vigor of action as if by spurring or goading: “Our vigilance was stimulated by our finding traces of a large … encampment” (Francis Parkman). To arouse means to awaken, as from inactivity or apathy; rouse means the same, but more strongly implies vigorous or emotional excitement: “In a democratic society like ours, relief must come through an aroused popular conscience that sears the conscience of the people's representatives” (Felix Frankfurter). “The oceangoing steamers … roused in him wild and painful longings” (Arnold Bennett). To stir is to cause activity, strong but usually agreeable feelings, trouble, or commotion: “It was him as stirred up th' young woman to preach last night” (George Eliot). “I have seldom been so … stirred by any piece of writing” (Mark Twain).