Episodic curiosity for avoiding asteroids: Per-trial information gain for choice outcomes drive information seeking

Linus Holm, Gustaf Wadenholt, Paul Schrater

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Humans often appear to desire information for its own sake, but it is presently unclear what drives this desire. The important role that resolving uncertainty plays in stimulating information seeking has suggested a tight coupling between the intrinsic motivation to gather information and performance gains, construed as a drive for long-term learning. Using an asteroid-avoidance game that allows us to study learning and information seeking at an experimental time-scale, we show that the incentive for information-seeking can be separated from a long-term learning outcome, with information-seeking best predicted by per-trial outcome uncertainty. Specifically, participants were more willing to take time penalties to receive feedback on trials with increasing uncertainty in the outcome of their choices. We found strong group and individual level support for a linear relationship between feedback request rate and information gain as determined by per-trial outcome uncertainty. This information better reflects filling in the gaps of the episodic record of choice outcomes than long-term skill acquisition or assessment. Our results suggest that this easy to compute quantity can drive information-seeking, potentially allowing simple organisms to intelligently gather information for a diverse episodic record of the environment without having to anticipate the impact on future performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages1
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 2 2019

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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