Psychology ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 1-7-1970


The present study was concerned with the analysis of the limita­tions of the existing approaches to curiosity behavior, and the proposal of a new formulation. The basic assumption was that novel information in a stimulus arouses a "drive to organize" or process the information, and that such a drive continues to operate until an adequate amount of information has been processed. It was also assumed that the interruption of this drive process leads to a continued state of motivation to resolve the information when it becomes available on a subsequent occasion.

Deductions following from these assumptions were translated into two basic test hypotheses: (a) that with very brief pre-exposure to the prototype, preference to attend to its variation will be signifi­cantly greater than that for novel shapes, and conversely, that adequate exposure to the prototype would lead to the preference for novel shapes; (b) that although preference to attend to complex shapes will be significantly greater than for simple shapes, the pre-exposure to complex shapes will reduce the preference to attend to their variations in favor of simple novel shapes.

Sixty-five subjects participated in the two experiments designed to test the two hypotheses stated above. In the first phase of Experi­ment I, pre-exposure to prototypes was provided in the context of a guessing game using a tachistoscope. The three pre-exposure values of

prototypes were 0.25, 0.50, and 2.50 seconds. In the test Phase of the experiment, subjects were required to indicate their degree of preference (strong, moderate, or slight) to attend to any one member of each pair of shapes presented to them in the tachistoscope. Results showed a significant preference to attend to the variations for the 0.25 seconds pre-exposure value of the prototypes. Significant changes in preference, to attend to novel shapes, were obtained for the 0.50 and 2.50 seconds pre-exposure values of the prototype.

For Experiment II, the subjects who had completed the two phases of Experiment I, were randomly assigned to four groups. Group I received pre-exposure to 12-point complex prototypes (c) and simple 8-point shapes (S) in the context of the guessing game, followed by presentations of variations of the complex prototypes (Vc) paired with simple 8-point novel shapes (Ns). Groups II and III received alternate presentations of C & S and Vc & Ns. Group IV, which acted as the control group, received presentations of Ve and Ns without pre-exposure to the complex prototypes. Subjects in each of these groups also indicated their degree of preference to attend to any one member of each pair of shapes presented to them. Results for Groups II and III showed a significant preference to attend to complex shapes. However, pre-exposure to these complex prototypes was found to reduce the preference towards their variations to a chance difference. The difference between Group I and Group IV (control group) was not significant.

Results were discussed in terms of their predictability from the proposed formulation as against the earlier formulations. The desir­ability of analysis of curiosity behavior in terms of a "drive to organize" was considered.

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Frank Anderson Logan

Second Committee Member

G. Robert Grice

Third Committee Member

Henry Carleton Ellis

Fourth Committee Member

John Marshall Rhodes

Fifth Committee Member

Peder Jack Johnson

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Included in

Psychology Commons