The Psychology and Neuroscience of Curiosity

Celeste Kidd, Benjamin Y. Hayden

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

351 Scopus citations


Curiosity is a basic element of our cognition, but its biological function, mechanisms, and neural underpinning remain poorly understood. It is nonetheless a motivator for learning, influential in decision-making, and crucial for healthy development. One factor limiting our understanding of it is the lack of a widely agreed upon delineation of what is and is not curiosity. Another factor is the dearth of standardized laboratory tasks that manipulate curiosity in the lab. Despite these barriers, recent years have seen a major growth of interest in both the neuroscience and psychology of curiosity. In this Perspective, we advocate for the importance of the field, provide a selective overview of its current state, and describe tasks that are used to study curiosity and information-seeking. We propose that, rather than worry about defining curiosity, it is more helpful to consider the motivations for information-seeking behavior and to study it in its ethological context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)449-460
Number of pages12
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 4 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a grant from the NIH, R01 (DA038615) (to B.Y.H.). We thank Sarah Heilbronner, Steve Piantadosi, Shraddha Shah, Maya Wang, Habiba Azab, and Maddie Pelz for helpful comments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Inc.


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