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Published October 2020 | public
Journal Article

The neuroeconomics of epistemic curiosity


Epistemic curiosity is an intrinsic drive to obtain non-instrumental information. It is presumed to be adaptively useful for building mental representations where there is an exploration bonus for learning. Formally, epistemic curiosity is most commonly modelled by calculating the entropy associated with information. Human curiosity across life stages exhibits a predictable Goldilocks pattern, where maximum entropy attracts attention and arousal, thus 'piquing' curiosity. This and close variants of the curiosity 'formula' have been used to generate more efficient algorithms, clickbait headlines, and maximum-suspense thrillers. Human fMRI studies have shown activity associated with curiosity and 'fulfillment' of curiosity (e.g. learning answers), typically in basal ganglia reward areas. Understanding this near-universal human drive is important for education and many other domains.

Additional Information

© 2020 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Available online 2 November 2020. The authors would like to thank support from the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Neuroscience Institute (A.B.) and the Behavioral and Neuroeconomics Discovery Fund (C.F.C). Conflicts of interest statement: Nothing declared.

Additional details

August 19, 2023
October 23, 2023