Curiosity Psychological Techniques

Part
01
of three
Part
01

Curiosity Psychological Techniques Part I

Three techniques to increase curiosity are increasing the perceived value of information, providing stimulus and mystery along with the opportunity for validation, and effective communication. Most research involved with curiosity primarily focuses on how to encourage learning instead of how to best foster curiosity itself. In the three academic publications used, while only one technique is specified, evidence of a combination of all three techniques were present when increasing curiosity in multiple situations.

Academic Publication #1

Overview

  • The goal of this publication was to look at if a subject's curiosity would increase by the suggestion that the information would be directly valuable to the subject.
  • Experiment One in this publication successfully demonstrated perceived value of the information led to both increased curiosity and information searches.

Authors

  • Rachit Dubey, Department of Computer Science, Princeton University
  • Thomas L. Griffiths, Department of Psychology and Computer Science, Princeton University
  • Tania Lombrozo, Department of Psychology, Princeton University

Experiment details

  • Subjects read two articles on different scientific topics, and then were given the option to read more facts about each topic. Each topic had a "High-Value" article and a "Low-Value" article.
  • The "High-Value" version suggested the scientific topic was of high value to the subject while the "Low-Value" version suggested the scientific topic was of low value. The two topics used were about rats and fruit flies.
  • Subjects were split into two groups. One group got the "High-Value" rats article and the "Low-Value" fruit flies article, and the other group received the "Low-Value" rats article and the "High-Value" fruit flies article.
  • The subjects rated their curiosity before and after reading their assigned articles, and then had the opportunity to read more facts about either topic.

Results

  • Subjects rated themselves as more curious after reading the articles that suggested the information was of high value.
  • Subjects requested more information about a topic after reading the article that suggested the topic was of high value.
  • The researchers acknowledge that this experiment needed further testing because it is possible understanding drove the effects of increased curiosity and not perceived value. They address that concern in their second experiment.

Academic Publication #2

Overview

  • Game developers can use certain tools to increase the five types of curiosity in their players. This paper reviews those five types and looks at examples of how to induce curiosity in video game players.
  • The five types of curiosity are perceptual, manipulatory, "curiosity about the complex or ambiguous", conceptual, and adjustive-reactive.
  • The authors acknowledge that this publication requires further empirical work.

Authors

Experiment details

  • The designers stimulate perceptual curiosity by showing players a "novel visual stimulus paired with a mystery to resolve" in the form of a map that displays item locations but no information about what the item is. The authors note that the stimulus can be auditory or visual.
  • Game designers stimulate curiosity through the complex and ambiguous. This ranges from providing weapons that behave differently based on the enchantment the player gives it, to making some animals in the game dangerous and others food sources. Players are typically forced to learn about these complexities and ambiguities if they wish to progress through the game effectively.
  • Game designers stimulate conceptual curiosity through the use of information gaps and understanding verification. It is not enough for players to learn that terrain affects combat in a game; they must understand how terrain affects combat and then be able to verify if their understand is valid.

Results

  • The paper demonstrates through psychological theory and examples from existing video games how controlling the form, context, and delivery of information leads to increased curiosity.
  • The combination of a stimulus and mystery with the opportunity for validation was typically the key in inducing curiosity in video game players between several of the examples.

Academic Publication #3

Overview

  • This study utilized surveys and interviews with nursing educators and nursing students to determine the most effective ways to create a culture of curiosity in the teaching environment.
  • One recurring theme identified as a part of encouraging curiosity was effective communication.

Authors

Experiment details

  • The researcher interviewed eight subjects from three different institutions of higher education to collect information about intellectual curiosity and education.
  • From those interviews, the researcher identified "three constitutive patterns and seven relational themes". She then used psychological precedent and data analysis to form the commonalities from the interviews into a cohesive narrative for fostering a culture of curiosity.

Results

  • One aspect of fostering a culture of curiosity was effective communication between the student and faculty member when engaging on the topic of interest.
  • Effective communication involved commitment, self-awareness, creative inquiry, challenging boundaries, quality improvement, and compassionate intention from both the educator and student.

Research strategy
The research team started by specifically looking for publications rooted in psychology and restricted all search results to academic essays, journals, and reports. Several academic publications were blocked by a pay wall and therefore not used. Several publications focused on increasing learning instead of increasing curiosity. The research team then expended the search to include any academic publication about increasing curiosity outside of a strict scientific context. Techniques were derived by looking at the methods and techniques used in the specific scenarios discussed in the publications with the assumption that techniques used to increase curiosity in one scenario would also be able to increase curiosity in other scenarios.
Part
02
of three
Part
02

Curiosity Psychological Techniques Part II

Information Gap Theory, the Interest/Deprivation Epistemic Curiosity Model, and Self-determination theory are three well-regarded frameworks and models when it comes to curiosity. Each model captures different conceptualizations of curiosity and provides various implementations on how to increase the given concept. In conclusion, appealing to the participants’ needs to dispel uncertainty, knowing their epistemic curiosity, and giving them autonomy towards a topic of their choice can all help increase their overall curiosity.

Information Gap Theory

  • Authors: George Loewenstein, Kang Min, Jeong et al.
  • George Loewenstein is a professor of Economics and Psychology at the Carnegie Mellon University, who proposed the Information-gap theory, which discussed that exposure to uncertainty could help increase curiosity.
  • Kang Min Jeong et al. (2009) conducted a study on 19 Caltech students. The participants were given a set of 40 trivial questions and were, later scanned with an fMRI.
  • Results show that uncertainty was positively correlated with curiosity, where when one variable increases, the other increases as well.
  • In conclusion, the need to dispel undesirable traits such as ignorance and uncertainty can help increase overall curiosity.

Interest/Deprivation Epistemic Curiosity Model

  • Authors: Jordan Litman and Patrick Mussel (2013)
  • Jordan Litman is a visiting research scientist at the Institute of Human and Machine Cognition and a part-time professor of Psychology at the University of Maine at Machias.
  • Patrick Mussel is a professor at Freie Universitat Berlin. These two researchers researched the Interest/Deprivation Epistemic Curiosity Model on German volunteers.
  • The volunteers were given the Epistemic Curiosity Questionnaire and Curiosity as a Feeling-of-Deprivation Scale (CFDs). The results of the study have shown good convergence validity between the two variables. Additionally, it was found that those who are Interest-type epistemic curious are driven by novelty, exploration, and new ideas, while those who are Deprivation-type epistemic curious are driven by finding answers to problems.
  • Technically, the curiosity of those ITEC can be increased through exploration and novelty stimuli, while the curiosity of DTEC can be increased through problem-solving stimuli.

Self-Determination Theory and Autonomy

  • Authors: Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. Deci; Nicola S. Schutte and John M. Malouff
  • Richard Ryan and Edward Deci are both professors and researchers at the University of Rochester. They developed the Self-Determination Theory, in where they proposed that intrinsic motivation (the general interest for people to act upon their behaviors) is fueled by the need to satisfy three psychological needs, which are competence, autonomy, and relatedness.
  • Researchers Nicola Schutte and John M. Malouff from the University of New England found that in their study of randomly chosen 154 participants that autonomy is positively correlated with curiosity.
  • In the study, one group of participants was given a chance to watch a video topic of their choice, while the other group was not given a chance to choose a video topic of their choice. The results of the study showed that those who had the autonomy to choose the video topic of their choice were more curious that those who did not.
  • In conclusion, autonomy facilitates curiosity and intrinsic motivation, and by giving people more autonomy over their decisions, they can be, in turn, more curious towards their given situation.

Research Strategy

The research team started the search by looking into pre-compiled information regarding psychological/scientific techniques that help increase curiosity. We looked into scientific reviews or meta-analyses regarding the study of curiosity, as these scientific journals usually provide an overview of techniques, scientific methods, and other studies regarding the topic during a certain period. During the search, we were able to find an overview of the study of curiosity and an article regarding reinforcement learning as an approach connected to curiosity. As the topic of “curiosity” is poorly conceptualized as stated by various articles such as from Loewenstein (1994) and Celeste Kidd and Benjamin Hayden (2015), the articles indicated helped us streamline our approach.

The research team decided to research the various discussed techniques, such as play, exploration, and reinforcement learning. Additionally, we also decided to conduct researches with various scientific methods/models that may help increase curiosity, such as the Optimal Arousal Model, Information gap theory, Interest/Deprivation, and the Curiosity Drive Model. Lastly, the team also decided to look into intrinsic motivation as a definition of curiosity, as discussed by Ryan and Deci (2000). The team then explored these techniques and models to find scientific journals that may answer the given topic.

The team’s search towards techniques such as play, exploration, and reinforcement learning was not fruitful, as the only articles we found were only related in using curiosity to motivate participants, and not directed towards increasing curiosity. We then delved into the Information-gap theory, as it provided the most potential, as various scientific journals discussed it in facilitating curiosity compared to other stated models. The information gap theory was proposed by Loewenstein (1994) (3) and was studied by Kang and colleagues (2009), among other things. The theory, which was also studied by Kang in a more modern setting, showed that statistical uncertainty can increase curiosity and that informational knowledge can be used to pique someone’s curiosity.

The team then searched more into the classical scientific models of Optimal Arousal and Curiosity Drive. During the search, we were able to find a scientific review from Litman (2005). The review stated the models to some extent, and the team found that the models were outdated, and no modern studies were conducted regarding curiosity. We then decided to shift our research towards a more modern model, which is the Interest/Deprivation model. The Interest/Deprivation model proved to be an essential factor in increasing curiosity within a person in varying circumstances. An interest-type epistemic curious person is more likely to explore and discover new ideas, while a deprivation-type epistemic curious person is more likely to persist in solving problems for the sake of satisfying one’s curiosity.

Finally, we then looked into Ryan and Deci’s (2000) Self Determination Theory. As stated by Ryan and Deci (2000), curiosity can be approached through the framework of intrinsic motivation. Additionally, supporting this idea is the fact that intrinsic motivation has various factors that were discussed in previous articles related to curiosity, such as interest, exploration, and the fear of uncertainty. In the review article, it mentioned the various factors that help complement and facilitate intrinsic motivation, and these are competence, autonomy, and relatedness. After the exhaustive search, the team then compiled the necessary information for the topic and wrote this research brief.
Part
03
of three
Part
03

Curiosity boosting Methods

Five scientific methods recently used to study curiosity are: "Should" and "Want," need for closure, changing the social environment, confidence sampling, and group influence on curiosity.

Overview of Curiosity

  • In general, research has found that high levels of curiosity help develop physical, social, cognitive, and emotional development over the lifespan by motivating exploratory behavior.
  • Studies based on these theories have explored methods to measure curiosity, and curiosity has, in turn, been linked with better learning, memory, and decision-making.
  • Psychological accounts of curiosity have suggested that curiosity is stimulated when we see discrepancies or when we expect the resolution of our curiosity to improve the utility of our knowledge.
  • People's curiosity is driven by seeking stimuli that maximize their ability to make appropriate responses in the future.
  • This report will identify five different scientific studies used to determine the stimulus for curiosity.

Overview of Scientific Method

The following are the relevant steps of the scientific method used in the analysis:
  • Test the prediction.

1 — "Should" and "Want"

Hypothesis

  • People are more likely to choose a less pleasurable "should" selection than a more pleasurable "want" selection if the less pleasurable one will satisfy a curiosity.

Test

  • University researchers designed a test to determine how raising people's curiosity might affect their choices.
  • Researchers went to 200 people in a university library and gave them a choice between one plain fortune cookie and another dipped in chocolate and covered in sprinkles.
  • Half were told that the plain cookie contained a fortune that would tell them something personal the researchers already knew about them.
  • Participants whose curiosity was piqued (i.e., were told the plain cookie contained a fortune specifically about them) overwhelmingly chose the plain cookie by 71 percent.
  • In contrast, when participants were told nothing, 80 percent chose the chocolate-dipped cookie.
  • In a different test, the same researchers increased the proportion of participants who chose to view what was described as a high-brow, intellectual video clip by promising to reveal the secret behind a magic trick.

Result

2 — Need for closure

Hypothesis

Test

  • Researchers posted a trivia question at the elevators in a faculty building in a university. Users were told the answers were available if they took the stairs.
  • In another study, they put joke placards near produce in a grocery store and told people the answers were on the bag closure.
  • In both cases, the increase in the positive behavior was approximately 10% — i.e., 10% more people took the stairs, and 10% more produce was sold when compared to the control groups.

Results

  • While the researchers were prepared for the fact that curiosity could change behavior, they were surprised at the strength of the effect.
  • "Evidently, people really have a need for closure when something has piqued their curiosity. They want the information that fills the curiosity gap, and they will go to great lengths to get it."
  • Curiosity can be promoted by putting people in a position where they need to close the information gap.

3 — Social Popularity to Induce Curiosity

Hypothesis

Test

  • Researchers designed a complex two-step process where participants were given ten questions and told the number of up votes for a Q&A on a topic and asked to rate their curiosity and perception of the questions' popularity.
  • In phase two of the test, participants selected five of the ten questions to see the answers.

Results

  • The curiosity for the questions with the up votes was 3.18 points higher than those with low up votes.
  • Participants chose to reveal answers to questions with up votes 64.7% of the time.
  • Curiosity can be promoted by telling people the unknown information is popular.

4 — Confidence Sampling

Hypothesis

Test

  • The stimuli in this test were 40 trivia questions that were designed to measure curiosity about semantic knowledge, and that would result in a range of curiosity levels.
  • Test participants were asked to determine their confidence in their knowledge of the answer and their curiosity in knowing the answer.
  • They were then shown each of the 40 questions, and participants were told to view the answers they were curious about. Finally, participants were given a test on the answers to the ten original questions.

Result

  • Mathematical calculations and plotting of the answers proved the hypothesis.
  • The result of the plotting was an inverted U-shaped curve, which showed that if a person had no confidence or had total confidence in being able to answer the question correctly, curiosity decreased.
  • People were most curious when they had some knowledge, but not, in their minds, enough knowledge.
  • Curiosity can be promoted when people feel they already know some information. It will be more challenging making people curious if they know nothing about the topic, and also, obviously, if they have a great deal of knowledge.

5 — Role of Social Influence and Group Membership in Curiosity

Hypothesis

Test

  • It is widely accepted that group identification influences an individual's behavior.
  • The test was conducted by asking participants to name both a membership group and a dissociative group to which they belonged.
  • After assigning a fictional personality to one of the groups, a social media post from that person with 35 pictures from a road trip were made available to the participant.
  • After several questions for the participants about interest in a road trip, a resulting mathematical model was created.

Result




Sources
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