“I think there are some useful ideas that can come out of our study with regard to adult learning,” says Charan Ranganath, a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis and one of the study’s authors, although he does caution that this is speculative.
Ranganath and his co-authors presented experiment subjects with both interesting and incidental information, and watched how these people processed it using MRIs. They found that a state of curiosity stimulates the brain’s pleasure centers.
What’s so special about curiosity that it has such a powerful effect? Ranganath suggests it’s an evolutionary response. “We are starting to think that the feeling of curiosity reflects a natural drive to reduce uncertainty in your understanding of the world,” he says. “So when you know something about a topic, but then find there is a gaping hole in your knowledge, you will feel the itch to get to the bottom of it,” he says.