Curiosity helps us learn

IT may seem like a no-brainer but a new study says that being curious about a topic makes us more likely to learn about it, and to obtain a more thorough knowledge of it than we would if we were less interested.

"Our findings potentially have far-reaching implications for the public because they reveal insights into how a form of intrinsic motivation - curiosity - affects memory," says lead author Dr. Matthias Gruber, of the University of California at Davis.

"These findings suggest ways to enhance learning in the classroom and other settings."

Experimentation involved asking participants to rate their curiosity to learn the answers to several trivia questions. Later, researchers asked them more trivia questions but waited 14 seconds before divulging the answer.

During this pause, participants were shown images of faces that appeared unrelated, and these faces showed up later when they were retested on the trivia questions for which they had been given the answers.

Researchers took MRI scans of participants' brains during the testing phase and results showed that not only were people more receptive to learning when curious, but once their curiosity was stimulated, it was easier for them to learn new, un-related material like the faces that they were perhaps less curious about.

"We showed that intrinsic motivation actually recruits the very same brain areas that are heavily involved in tangible, extrinsic motivation," says Dr. Gruber, remarking that arousing curiosity brings about increased activity in the part of the brain associated with reward.

The hippocampus, which builds memories, also showed increased activity due to curiosity, according to researchers. The study was published in the journal Neuron. – AFP Relaxnews