Motivation to Learn: The Long-Term Mnemonic Benefit of Curiosity in Intentional Learning

Vered Halamish, Inbal Madmon, Anat Moed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Learners are more likely to remember what they study if they are motivated to do so. Such motivation can be externally driven by prospective rewards, but also intrinsically driven by curiosity. The present research focused on the role of curiosity during intentional learning. We examined the potential mnemonic benefit of curiosity, whether this benefit is undermined when learners are externally motivated to learn by rewards, and whether it can be attributed to increased study time for information they are more curious about. In two experiments, participants were presented with trivia questions, rated their level of curiosity about each question, and then studied the answers, either with or without a prospect of reward for correct recall on a subsequent test. Study time was either fixed (Experiment 1) or self-paced (Experiment 2). Performance on a memory test 1 week later suggested that curiosity enhanced long-term retention, and that rewards did not undermine the benefit of curiosity. When learning was self-paced, study time increased with curiosity but did not account for the effect of curiosity on memory. The results highlight the important role curiosity plays in learning and suggest that curiosity and rewards can be used together effectively to promote students' learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-330
Number of pages12
JournalExperimental Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Hogrefe Publishing GmbH. All rights reserved.


  • curiosity
  • intentional learning
  • memory
  • motivation
  • reward
  • study time

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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