Influence of Topic Knowledge on Curiosity

AbstractGiven the vast nature of information available in the world, humans must select a small subset from which to learn in a lifetime. Yet we know little about the factors that motivate learners’ decisions to attend to select certain information sources over others. We investigate the role of topic knowledge on curiosity in a new domain: novel news stories. We influenced listeners’ perception of their topic knowledge in these novel domains by independently varying the number of sentences they heard and the number of sentences that remained after a decision point. Listeners were most curious when they reported intermediate levels of topic knowledge. As expected, learners were less likely to switch away from content that they were curious about. This result demonstrates that topic knowledge directly impacts learners’ curiosity and thus has downstream influences on their future interests and information-seeking behaviors.

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