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How Novelty Primes the Brain for Learning
June 27, 2022
The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.
-E. E. Cummings

"We often observe new things out in the real world without a goal of learning about them," says psychologist Vladimir Sloutsky, "But we found that simply being exposed to them makes an impression in our mind and leads us to be ready to learn about them later."

By inviting over 400 volunteers to try a humorous game with jumping ‘furps’ and ‘jalets,’ Sloutsky and colleagues demonstrated that novelty primes our brains for such latent learning: learning things, such as qualities and categories of ‘furps’ and ‘jalets,’ without even knowing we’re learning.

In the article included with the Exchange Reflections “Neuroscience of Curiosity,” developmental psychologist Wendy Ostroff discusses how the brain responds to novelty, noting, “Right from birth, infants and young children choose to look at, listen to or play with things they have never experienced before. This novelty preference is a sign of robust development and health, and is an efficient way for immature cognitive systems to process information.”

Digging deeper, she explains research by Gruber, Gelman and Rangannath: “In one important fMRI brain study, questions that were sincerely fascinating greatly increased activity in the brain regions involved in joy and reward. Further, when participants were in a curious state, their brains’ surge in dopamine caused them to more deeply take in and remember the entire landscape of experience and information... Indeed, higher curiosity when asking questions was correlated with better recall of surprising answers up to two weeks later.”

Reminder: Wednesday is International Mud Day! Have some fun and share your stories, #wfmudday.





Exchange Reflections

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