Emily Liquin, Graduate Student in Psychology How do children decide when to explore?

March 13, 2017 • 12:00pm–1:30pm • 3105 Tolman Hall

Developmental Psychology & IHD

While a growing body of research suggests that children are able to learn through active exploration, little work has investigated how children choose when to explore. In adults, this choice is often defined in terms of the explore-exploit dilemma, in which agents must choose between seeking immediate reward (exploitation) or seeking information that may increase long-term reward (exploration). Here I report results suggesting that children may be uniquely motivated by the potential for information gain regardless of the potential for short-term or long-term reward, leading to a general tendency towards exploration. These findings reveal that children do not make the decision to explore in the optimal way prescribed by the explore-exploit framework, in which exploration is pursued only to increase future reward. While children's behavior may thus seem irrationally exploratory in individual cases, a general bias towards exploration and information search may in part explain young children's impressive capacity for learning.