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States of epistemic curiosity interfere with memory for incidental scholastic facts

Keller, Nicole E., Salvi, Carola, Leiker, Emily K., Gruber, Matthias J. ORCID: and Dunsmoor, Joseph E. 2024. States of epistemic curiosity interfere with memory for incidental scholastic facts. npj Science of Learning 9 (1) , 22. 10.1038/s41539-024-00234-w

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Curiosity can be a powerful motivator to learn and retain new information. Evidence shows that high states of curiosity elicited by a specific source (i.e., a trivia question) can promote memory for incidental stimuli (non-target) presented close in time. The spreading effect of curiosity states on memory for other information has potential for educational applications. Specifically, it could provide techniques to improve learning for information that did not spark a sense of curiosity on its own. Here, we investigated how high states of curiosity induced through trivia questions affect memory performance for unrelated scholastic facts (e.g., scientific, English, or historical facts) presented in close temporal proximity to the trivia question. Across three task versions, participants viewed trivia questions closely followed in time by a scholastic fact unrelated to the trivia question, either just prior to or immediately following the answer to the trivia question. Participants then completed a surprise multiple-choice memory test (akin to a pop quiz) for the scholastic material. In all three task versions, memory performance was poorer for scholastic facts presented after trivia questions that had elicited high versus low levels of curiosity. These results contradict previous findings showing curiosity-enhanced memory for incidentally presented visual stimuli and suggest that target information that generates a high-curiosity state interferes with encoding complex and unrelated scholastic facts presented close in time.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC)
Additional Information: License information from Publisher: LICENSE 1: URL:, Type: open-access
Publisher: Nature Research
ISSN: 2056-7936
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 20 March 2024
Date of Acceptance: 29 February 2024
Last Modified: 20 Mar 2024 11:15

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