Friday, October 18, 2019

Daniel Willingham on Curiosity

There's a great article on curiosity today in the NY Times by Daniel Willingham.  I always thought that curiosity was one of the keys to learning; he agrees.

Why Aren’t We Curious About the Things We Want to Be Curious About?

Excerpts:

"Curiosity feels like it’s outside your control, and trying to direct it sounds as ill conceived as forcing yourself to find a joke funny. But if you understand what prompts curiosity, you may be able to channel it a little better."

"Across evolutionary time, curious animals were more likely to survive because they learned about their environments; a forager that occasionally skipped a reliable feeding ground to explore might find an even better place to eat."

"Humans, too, will forgo a known payoff to investigate the unknown."

"Therefore, evolution has left us with a brain that can reward itself; satisfying curiosity feelspleasurable, so you explore the environment even when you don’t expect any concrete payoff."

"What’s more, curiosity doesn’t just ensure new opportunities for learning, it enhances learning itself. In a recent experiment, subjects read trivia questions and rated how curious each made them feel. Later, they saw the questions again, each followed by a photograph of a face, and judged whether that person looked like he or she would know the answer. In a surprise final memory test for the faces, subjects better remembered those appearing after trivia questions that made them curious. Curiosity causes a brain state that amplifies learning."

"This function of curiosity — to heighten memory — is the key to understanding why we’re curious about some things and not others. We feel most curious when exploration will yield the most learning."

"We’re maximally curious when we sense that the environment offers new information in the right proportion to complement what we already know."

"Einstein famously advised a young student to “never lose a holy curiosity.” Given our evolutionary history, there’s little danger any of us will. The challenge is changing its focus from the momentary to something more enduring."

(Scott Fruehwald)

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_skills/2019/10/daniel-willingham-on-curiosity.html

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