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Curiosity and the Pleasures of Learning: The I/D Epistemic Curiosity Model and its Implications for Positive Psychology Jordan Litman Institute for Human.

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Presentation on theme: "Curiosity and the Pleasures of Learning: The I/D Epistemic Curiosity Model and its Implications for Positive Psychology Jordan Litman Institute for Human."— Presentation transcript:

1 Curiosity and the Pleasures of Learning: The I/D Epistemic Curiosity Model and its Implications for Positive Psychology Jordan Litman Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, Flordia, USA 7th. Iberoamerican Positive Psychology Meeting, 2013

2 Positive Psychology: A Field That Emphasizes Psychological Well-being and Personal Growth As a gateway to psychological well-being (e.g., happiness, fulfillment, feeling one’s life has meaning and purpose) the notion of “personal growth” is highly complex. Personal growth involves being open and receptive to new ideas, to improving the depth of one’s understanding of the world, to gaining insight, and to strengthening characteristics such as wisdom. Personal growth also may refer to approaching and overcoming the challenges one may face -- to developing self-determination and the ability to persevere when faced with a problem -- and then add to or improve one’s current knowledge-base, skills or talents. In this context, understanding personal growth points to the importance of taking into consideration the processes involved in self-directed learning. This view points to the potential importance of studying individual differences in factors (e.g., personality, emotions, and motives) that may underlie or shape self-directed learning, and begs the question: Which underlying factors in particular are most relevant? Presumably such factors would correspond to individual differences in motives to seek out and make use of new knowledge…

3 The Nature and Measurement of Epistemic Curiosity (EC) Epistemic Curiosity (EC): An innate motive that underlies inquisitiveness, seeking out new knowledge, solving problems and improving one’s understanding of the world. Individual differences in EC reflects approaching and using new information in order to either... Stimulate affectively positive states of intellectual interest (I-type) or Relieve negative affective states of feeling deprived of knowledge (D-type). These two expressions of intellectual curiosity point to different underlying mechanisms involved in their activation, in the associated experiences, and in the pleasure of satiation.

4 The Nature of Individual Differences in Interest (I) and Deprivation (D) types of Epistemic Curiosity (EC) The I/D EC Distinction– related but distinct emotional-motivational aspects of trait curiosity that guide self-directed learning in different ways… I-type ECD-type EC.. When individuals have little or no prior knowledge (gather/generate information by novelty seeking, brainstorming). When individuals have some prior knowledge or feel close to solving a problem (persistent, determined to obtain or arrive at precise and correct answers). Qualitatively Less intense, “learning is fun.” Lower intensity, but pure positive affect (“warm fuzzies”). Qualitatively uncomfortably intense “need to know”. Stronger, but involves some initial negative affect (an “itch to be scratched”). To enjoy a new discovery. To accurately solve problems, complete knowledge-sets, and improve the understanding of something in particular. The anticipated enjoyment of thinking about new ideas (a warm, “Oh, that’s interesting” reaction). The anticipated relief from dispelling an unknown (an intensely pleasurable “Ah- ha! Now I understand!” moment). Optimally Activated Subjective Experience Learning Goals Expected Reward

5 The Measurement of Individual Differences in Epistemic Curiosity (EC) The EC traits are assessed by two, brief 5-item self-report scales (Alpha >.80). Excellent simple structure in EFA’s; excellent model fit in CFA’s. Validated in large samples in America, Germany, and China (language translations) suggesting cross-cultural stability of the model. A Spanish version is in development I/D model also found valid for parent-reports of young children (aged 3-7) and for self-reports of adolescents across cultures. Both scales strongly correlated with Need For Cognition (convergence) and are weakly related to sensation or thrill seeking (divergence). Although, I-type and D-type EC scale scores are strongly related to each other, each measure has different correlates and predicts different self-directed learning outcomes… Sample Items I-type: I enjoy exploring new ideas When I learn something new, I would like to find out more about it D-type: I can spend hours on a single problem because I just can’t rest without knowing the answer. I work like a fiend at problems that I feel must be solved. Diagram of the I/D EC Model (from Litman, 2008) The I/D Distinction in EC – correlated but meaningfully different traits

6 Key Findings: Unique Correlates of the I-type and D-type EC Scales Found in Empirical Studies Consistent with the hypothesized I/D distinction, scores on each scale have different correlates and predict different self-directed learning outcomes…… I- type EC (Fun & Relaxed: Novelty-Seeking Oriented) D-type EC (Intense & Persistent: Problem-Solving Oriented) Laboratory Studies Academic and Workplace Settings Positively correlated with Desire for Novelty, Ambiguity Tolerance, Openness, Agreeableness and Extraversion; negatively correlated with Neuroticism and Depression. Associated with lower levels of state curiosity and predicts less actual information-seeking behavior. Associated with having no prior knowledge (verified by poorer actual recall performance). Positively correlated with Intellectual Absorption, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, Anger; negatively correlated with Agreeableness and Ambiguity Tolerance. Associated with higher levels of state-curiosity and predicts more actual information-seeking behavior. Associated with having incomplete prior knowledge (verified by associations to TOT’s and better actual recall performance). Predicts adopting Mastery oriented learning goals (learning for personal fun). On the job, predicts searching for optimal challenges, placing importance on learning new ideas and on how much fun working with new ideas will be. Predicts developing study motives aimed at intrinsic interest and personal satisfaction. Correlated with Mastery goals but stronger predictor of adopting Performance and Failure Avoidant goals. Predicts being concerned with how understandable new information will be and how easily it can be applied to solving problems on the job. Predicts using study strategies aimed at expending time and effort to fully understand material.

7 The I/D EC Distinction and the Pleasures of Learning: Hypothesized Underlying Mechanisms How can we explain these correlated but very different ways in which EC is experienced and expressed in order to motivate different kinds of self-directed learning. Additionally, how can we account for the different subjective experiences associated with the activation and satiation of each type of EC? Previous theoretical models developed to explain curiosity and exploration, such as “Optimal Arousal” or “Curiosity Drive”, fall short, and can really only explain one of the two types (I-type or D- type, respectively), but not both. Moreover, although drive and optimal arousal models are rooted in neuroscience, they are based on a fairly archaic understanding of the physiological mechanisms that underlie motivation and reward. Therefore, a new model is needed that explains the findings from research on the I/D EC distinction (as well as past research on curiosity and exploration) that is informed by our contemporary understanding of the neural underpinnings of motivation and reward. This new model is the “Wanting/Liking” Model of Motivation...

8 The I/D EC Distinction and the Pleasures of Learning: Hypothesized Underlying Mechanisms “Wanting” and “Liking” are cooperative but dissociated systems in the brain. “Wanting” = mesolimbic dopamine activation. When activated, approach behavior is motivated. Higher levels are progressively more uncomfortable. “Liking” = opioid activity in nucleus accumbens. Activated when stimuli are evaluated of in terms pleasure. Higher levels are more pleasurable. Importantly, when wanting is high, subsequent liking from satiation will be greater. Research suggests these are the common substrates of motivation and reward for food, water, sex, drugs, and even sensory stimulation, and novel information. Varying degrees of wanting and liking activity helps explain the subjective experiences that reflect initial appetite and subsequent satiation. “Wanting” & “Liking” in the Brain (Berridge & Robinson, 2003) Subjective experiences associated with varying levels of “wanting” and “liking” brain activity

9 The I/D EC Distinction and the Pleasures of Learning: Hypothesized Underlying Mechanisms “Wanting” and “Liking” are cooperative but dissociated systems in the brain. “Wanting” = mesolimbic dopamine activation. When activated, approach behavior is motivated. Higher levels are progressively more uncomfortable. “Liking” = opioid activity in nucleus accumbens. Activated when stimuli are evaluated of in terms pleasure. Higher levels are more pleasurable. Importantly, when wanting is high, subsequent liking from satiation will be greater. Research suggests these are the common substrates of motivation and reward for food, water, sex, drugs, and even sensory stimulation, and novel information. Varying degrees of wanting and liking activity helps explain the subjective experience that corresponds to initial appetite and subsequent satiation. We can apply this model to explain the I/D Distinction  Subjective experiences associated with varying levels of “wanting” and “liking” activity

10 The Role of I-type and D-type EC and Positive Psychology: Possible Applications & Implications! Assessment of I- and D-type EC has important implications for applications in mental health, education and training, and for facilitating personal growth and well-being. I- type EC (Fun & Relaxed: Novelty-Seeking) D-type EC (Intense & Persistent: Problem-Solving) A marker of positive affect and desire for new discoveries; related to experiences of awe and wonder. Greater acceptance of ambiguities; life is more about asking questions than getting specific answers. Motivates a “search for knowledge” broadly defined; associated with placing a greater value on information that leads to new ideas. Associated with a willingness to work hard, and to developing clear definitions of problems in order to solve them. Lesser acceptance of ambiguity; life is about making sense of things and getting clear, usable answers. Motivates rigorous, more narrowly defined search; associated with placing greater value on information that builds on what is known. Corresponds to discovering new areas of pervasive interest, and greater openness to unexpected feedback or discoveries Predicts seeking out new challenges, and focusing on how much fun learning and working with new ideas will be. Associated with concern over objective accuracy and with fully understanding newly gathered information. Greater focus on making sense of new information and applying it to solving problems. Assessing levels of I- and D-type EC may make it possible to tailor therapies or teaching/training to best suit an individual’s natural tendencies to approach new information. Assessment may clarify who would benefit most from brainstorming or from “digging deeply”. Moreover, following assessment, individuals could be advised on how to better apply their I- and D-type tendencies in their daily lives.

11 An Open Question for Future Work on the I/D Model: Curiosity about one’s Limits and Capabilities Achieving personal growth requires individuals to question their limits, capabilities, and potentials. How might the I/D model be applied to this view? Questions about one’s Limits and Capabilities I-type OrientedD-type Oriented “What are some new areas of potential interest I might explore?” “How will I accurately determine when I’ve completed my objectives?” “How much effort will be needed to pursue this goal?” “Can I do it? Do I have it in me to even try?” “How much fun will it be to pursue this goal?” This line of inquiry is truly at the intersection of: (1) Our present understanding of the nature and assessment of curiosity, (2) Future research on the role of curiosity in positive psychology, (3) The development of a deeper understanding of the factors that shape personal growth! “What specifically will I gain as a person or learn about myself from trying? From succeeding? From failing?” “Where will this take me? How will the new experience change me or my life, broadly speaking?” “Can I develop a concrete plan of action on how to proceed?”

12 Whether broadly interested and wish to explore further… or Quite intrigued with specific questions you need answered… Want more information about the I/D Model of EC? Please for reprints, psychometric instruments, interest in collaboration, details, Thank you for your time!


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