Based on a synthesis of findings from psychology, neuroscience, and machine learning, we propose a unified theory of curiosity as a form of motivated cognition. Curiosity, we propose, is comprised of a family of mechanisms that range in complexity from simple heuristics based on novelty, salience, or surprise, to drives based on reward and uncertainty reduction and finally, to self-directed metacognitive processes. These mechanisms, we propose, have evolved to allow agents to discover useful regularities in the world – steering them toward niches of maximal learning progress and away from both random and highly familiar tasks. We emphasize that curiosity arises organically in conjunction with cognition and motivation, being generated by cognitive processes and in turn, motivating them. We hope that this view will spur the systematic study of curiosity as an integral aspect of cognition and decision making during development and adulthood.
Gottlieb, J., Lopes, M. and Oudeyer, P.-Y. (2016), "Motivated Cognition: Neural and Computational Mechanisms of Curiosity, Attention, and Intrinsic Motivation", Recent Developments in Neuroscience Research on Human Motivation (Advances in Motivation and Achievement, Vol. 19), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 149-172. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0749-742320160000019017
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