I study how children and adults learn about the world by exploring and asking questions. My research asks how and why information search is selective: why do humans feel compelled to explore in some settings but not others? 


Are the feelings we experience during inquiry aligned with learning?

In one line of research, I study what cues trigger explanation-seeking curiosity and explanatory satisfaction---the states that motivate learners to seek explanations and to recognize when their efforts have succeeded, respectively. While prior work has shown that curiosity and satisfaction are both selective, it is unclear that these motivational states are selective in a way that is aligned with the ultimate goal of explanation search: learning. I have found that adults tend to experience curiosity about the explanations that are most likely to provide useful knowledge, and they find them more satisfying when they do so.

Liquin, E. G., & Lombrozo, T. (2020). Motivated to learn: An account of explanatory satisfaction. Cognitive Psychology, 132, 101453. pdf

Liquin, E. G., Callaway, F. & Lombrozo, T. (2020). Quantifying curiosity: A formal approach to dissociating causes of curiosity. In S. Denison., M. Mack, Y. Xu, & B. C. Armstrong (Eds.), Proceedings of the 42nd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 309-315). Cognitive Science Society. pdf presentation video

Liquin, E. G., & Lombrozo, T. (2020). A functional approach to explanation-seeking curiosity. Cognitive Psychology, 119, 101276. pdf

How do we trade off the desire for information and the desire for reward?

In another line of research, I study how children and adults balance the desire to seek information with the need to manage rewards and costs. Exploration provides the opportunity to learn information that will be useful in the future; for example, trying a new restaurant might introduce you to new, delicious meals. However, exploration is risky: trying a new restaurant might instead give you food poisoning. I have found that children are more likely to pursue risky exploration than adults, even though they appear to comprehend the risks just as well. As a result, children are more likely to learn unexpected causal relations.

Liquin, E. G. & Gopnik, A. (2022). Children are more exploratory and learn more than adults in an approach-avoid task. Cognition. 218, 104940. pdf