Quantifying Knowledge Gains in a Virtual Experience
Abstract: Curiosity has long been a topic of interest in cognitive science and psychology research. Despite this, little is understood about the relationship between curiosity, behavior, and knowledge acquisition. Several theories propose that curiosity is an innate system of reward mechanism for closing knowledge gaps. This study examined whether observations of curiosity-driven behavior in an information-rich virtual environment could be used to predict knowledge gains without relying on assessment of what specific information led to those gains. A total of 54 participants were asked to complete a task in an online three-dimensional virtual environment, as well as pre-test and post-test questionnaires. The results show that the number of contacts with information sources predicts quantifiable knowledge gains without regard to the content of the information sources or qualitative assessment of knowledge gains. Future research should consider how to collect more nuanced data on knowledge gains as well as how qualitative research could be combined with a study such as this to help identify when behavior is driven by innate curiosity or external motivation.
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