Curiosity about a subject really does excite the brain in ways that can make it easier to learn, a study in the journal Neuron concludes.
Researchers at the University of California, Davis, asked adults to rate their interest in a series of trivia questions. The questions and answers were later presented, paired with images of unrelated faces, while the participants underwent brain scans. Later, the participants were tested on both the trivia and facial recognition.
The researchers found when people were curious about a particular question, they were not only better at learning and remembering that information, but were also “primed” to better learn unrelated information like the faces. Curiosity increased activity in areas of the brain related to rewards and the creation of new memories.
“Curiosity may put the brain in a state that allows it to learn and retain any kind of information, like a vortex that sucks in what you are motivated to learn, and also everything around it,” lead author Matthias Gruber said in a statement on the study.
A version of this article appeared in the October 08, 2014 edition of Education Week as Student Motivation