Intrinsic motivations driving learning of eye movements: an experiment with human adults

Intrinsic motivations drive the acquisition of knowledge and skills on the basis of novel or surprising stimuli or the pleasure to learn new skills. In so doing, they are different from extrinsic motivations that are mainly linked to drives that promote survival and reproduction. Intrinsic motivations have been implicitly exploited in several psychological experiments but, due to the lack of proper paradigms, they are rarely a direct subject of investigation. This article investigates how different intrinsic motivation mechanisms can support the learning of visual skills, such as "foveate a particular object in space", using a gaze contingency paradigm. In the experiment participants could freely foveate objects shown in a computer screen. Foveating each of two "button" pictures caused different effects: one caused the appearance of a simple image (blue rectangle) in unexpected positions, while the other evoked the appearance of an always-novel picture (objects or animals). The experiment studied how two possible intrinsic motivation mechanisms might guide learning to foveate one or the other button picture. One mechanism is based on the sudden, surprising appearance of a familiar image at unpredicted locations, and a second one is based on the content novelty of the images. The results show the comparative effectiveness of the mechanism based on image novelty, whereas they do not support the operation of the mechanism based on the surprising location of the image appearance. Interestingly, these results were also obtained with participants that, according to a post experiment questionnaire, had not understood the functions of the different buttons suggesting that novelty-based intrinsic motivation mechanisms might operate even at an unconscious level.

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Caligiore Daniele
Mustile Magda
Cipriani Daniele
Redgrave Peter
Triesch Jochen
De Marsico Maria
Baldassarre Gianluca
Public Library of Science, San Francisco, CA , Stati Uniti d'America
PloS one 10 (2015). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0118705
info:cnr-pdr/source/autori:Caligiore Daniele, Mustile Magda, Cipriani Daniele, Redgrave Peter, Triesch Jochen, De Marsico Maria, Baldassarre Gianluca/titolo:Intrinsic motivations driving learning of eye movements: an experiment with human adults/doi:10.13
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