Curiosity: Kills the Cat, Helps the Human to Learn
A new study reveals how a state of active curiosity stimulates the brain's memory and pleasure centers, thus explaining why it's so much more effective to employ learning strategies that spark students' interest.
A new study has revealed that a state of active curiosity stimulates the brain's memory and pleasure centers, thus explaining why it's so much more effective to employ learning strategies that spark students' interest.
In a piece over at NPR, Maanvi Singh profiles the study, which was published earlier this month in Neuron. Singh interviews UC Davis psychologist Charan Ranganath, one of the study's lead researchers, who explains that the impetus of the study was to explore why humans remember certain bits of information while forgetting others. Ranganath and his team guessed that it had something to do with how interested someone is in what they're learning.
To test this hypothesis, the researchers asked a group of volunteers to rate 100 questions based on how curious they were to find out the answer. Singh explains what happened next:
"Next, everyone reviewed the questions — and their answers — while the researchers monitored their brain activity using an MRI machine. When the participants' curiosity was piqued, the parts of their brains that regulate pleasure and reward lit up. Curious minds also showed increased activity in the hippocampus, which is involved in the creation of memories."
The scientists were also surprised to find that curious subjects exhibited a heightened ability to remember remembering less interesting bits of information:
"'Say you're watching the Breaking Bad finale,' Ranganath explains. If you're a huge fan of the show, you're certainly really curious to know what happens to its main character, Walter White.
'You'll undoubtedly remember what happens in the finale,' he says, but you might also remember what you ate before watching the episode, and what you did right after."
Lessons from these findings can be applied to nearly any educational setting. The key to getting kids to memorize "boring" information (such as multiplication tables) is to spark their curiosity in other ways. What's more, an active sense of curiosity will make kids want to explore the "why" to augment their knowledge of the "what," particularly important in the application of a subject like mathematics.
Take a look at the full article (linked below) and if it piques your curiosity, let us know in the comments below.
Read more at KUOW
And here's a link to the study.
Photo credit: David Crockett / Shutterstock
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Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.
The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?
Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression
In their findings the authors state:
upholding First Amendment ideals.
Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner
- Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
- Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
- Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
- Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
- Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
- Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
- Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
It's interesting to note the authors found that:
"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."
Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:
- 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
- 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
- 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
- 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
- 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:
- Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
Civic discourse in the divisive age
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.
Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."
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