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http://ssrn.com/abstract=1308286
 
 

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The Wick in the Candle of Learning: Epistemic Curiosity Activates Reward Circuitry and Enhances Memory


Min Jeong Kang


California Institute of Technology

Ming Hsu


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Department of Economics

Ian M. Krajbich


affiliation not provided to SSRN

George Loewenstein


Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences

Samuel M. McClure


Stanford University - Psychology

Joseph Tao-yi Wang


National Taiwan University - Department of Economics

Colin Camerer


California Institute of Technology - Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences

November 27, 2008

Psychological Science

Abstract:     
Curiosity has been described as the "wick in the candle of learning" but its underlying mechanisms are not well-understood. We scanned subjects with fMRI while they read trivia questions. The level of curiosity when reading questions is correlated with activity in caudate regions previously suggested to be involved in anticipated reward or encoding prediction error. This finding led to a behavioral study showing that subjects spend more scarce resources (either limited tokens, or waiting time) to find out answers when they are more curious. The fMRI also showed that curiosity increases activity in memory areas when subjects guess incorrectly, which suggests that curiosity may enhance memory for surprising new information. This prediction about memory enhancement is confirmed in a behavioral study- higher curiosity in the initial session is correlated with better recall of surprising answers 10 days later.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 73

Keywords: Neuroimaging, Memory, Learning, Brain

JEL Classification: Y8

working papers series





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Date posted: December 1, 2008 ; Last revised: December 10, 2008

Suggested Citation

Kang, Min Jeong and Hsu, Ming and Krajbich, Ian M. and Loewenstein, George and McClure, Samuel M. and Wang, Joseph Tao-yi and Camerer, Colin, The Wick in the Candle of Learning: Epistemic Curiosity Activates Reward Circuitry and Enhances Memory (November 27, 2008). Psychological Science. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1308286 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1308286

Contact Information

Min Jeong Kang (Contact Author)
California Institute of Technology ( email )
1200 East California Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91125
United States
Ming Hsu
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Department of Economics
410 David Kinley Hall
1407 W. Gregory
Urbana, IL 61801
United States
Ian M. Krajbich
affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )
George F. Loewenstein
Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences ( email )
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States
412-268-8787 (Phone)
412-268-6938 (Fax)
Samuel M. McClure
Stanford University - Psychology ( email )
Stanford, CA 94305
United States
Joseph Tao-yi Wang
National Taiwan University - Department of Economics ( email )
21 Hsiu Chow Rd
Taipei, 10020
Taiwan
Colin F. Camerer
California Institute of Technology - Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences ( email )
1200 East California Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91125
United States
626-395-4054 (Phone)
626-432-1726 (Fax)
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References:  40
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