Information Gap Theory

We live in time that is totally bombarded by information, where every question can answered by a simple google search. In such a world how do we get students to remain inquisitive about the world around them?

According to  behavioral economist George Loewenstein, “curiosity happens when we feel a gap in our knowledge.” We therefore seek out the missing information in order to “eliminate the feeling of deprivation.” But is curiosity internally or externally stimulated? Is it a primary drive, like hunger or fear? Is curiosity a state or trait?  “If people like positive levels of curiosity, why do they attempt to resolve the curiosity?”

In his 1994 publication “The Psychology of Curiosity,” Lowenstein surveys the body of curiosity research, much of which occurred in the early 1960s and 70s. In doing so, he provides and backdrop by which to understand his own research and how it resolves many of the debates surrounding curiosity. Simply stated: I’m curious because there’s a gap between “what I know and what I want to know.” Two notable implications come from this perspective:

  1. The intensity of curiosity correlates to the likelihood of certain information to resolve the information-gap. Loewenstein’s own tests confirmed that subjects were more curious when given parts of a greater whole—the need to complete enough of a picture puzzle in order to determine what it was (a picture of an animal) resulted in more interaction than a scenario where each block was a discrete picture.
  2. Curiosity correlates with our own understanding of particular domain. The more we know about some topic, the more likely we are to focus on our own information-gaps. If I know 8 of 10 items, I’m more curious about the remaining 2 than if I only know 2 of 10 things.

Further discussion on this topic can be found via the link:

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