What drives preschoolers’ curiosity to learn? – Consumer health news


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THURSDAY July 1, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Want to spark the interest of a preschooler to learn something new? Give them just enough information to make them want to learn more, suggests a new study.

This creates the perfect blend of uncertainty and curiosity in children, said researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

“There is an endless amount of information in the real world,” said Jenny Wang, lead author of the study, assistant professor of cognitive psychology at Rutgers. “Yet despite having to learn so much in such a short time, young children seem to learn happily and effectively. We wanted to understand what motivates their curiosity.

In a series of experiments, Wang and his colleagues measured what children ages 3 to 5 knew about different “areas of knowledge,” using in-person and online storybooks the researchers designed.

Investigators assessed the children’s ability to understand and grasp a specific topic, such as contagion. They asked how the children’s current level of knowledge predicts their interest in learning more about it, including whether someone will get sick after playing with a sneezing friend.

“Intuitively, curiosity seems to belong to those who know the most, like scientists, and those who know the least, like babies,” said Wang, who heads the Rutgers Cognition and Learning Center. “But what we found here is quite surprising: it was the middle children who showed the most interest in knowing more about the contagion, compared to the children who knew too little or too much.”

Children aren’t just drawn to information by its novelty, the researchers found. They are naturally curious, but the difficult question is how to harness this natural curiosity, Wang said in a college press release.

“Ultimately, discoveries like this will help parents and educators better support children as they actively explore and learn about the world,” Wang said.

The results were published on June 28 in the journal Psychological Sciences.

More information

Scholastic offers more thoughts on why young children are curious.

SOURCE: Rutgers University, press release, June 29, 2021

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