Interest the Anticipation of Pleasure in Learning.

The 3rd key to learning.

What is key in learning? This is the third of a number of keys that are meant to bring understanding, about what learning is, and how leaning can be improved by understanding the message of those keys. This key is about taking advantage of interest. Interest is the most essential ingredient in the desire to learn. It is also that ingredient which makes learning most enjoyable and effortless.

"Snowflakes are one of nature's most fragile things, but just look what they can do when they stick together." Vista M. Kelly

"Each day can be one of triumph if you keep up your interests." George Matthew Adams

The conflicting primitive desires.

The fact is that initial interest, and thus motivation to learn, is governed by two conflicting primitive primitive desires or motivators. 

 Curiosity. One primitive drive is the fact that we are drawn to the unusual, the unique and the strange by our curiosity. When we have no previous experience with a thing only curiosity is able to drive us to explore it. Without curiosity learning and interest could never even get started.

Fear of the unknown. The other primitive drive is fear of the unknown. We are afraid of what is not known and repelled by the strange and weird. There is good and sufficient reason that we should be afraid of the previously unexperienced as in primitive times anything unknown was possibly life threatening or painful. To get us started on the road to interest we must first overcome this fear of the unusual and the only tool we have to help us do so is curiosity.


Interest. However as we are exposed to new and novel things more and more and they become more and more familiar, (as we are able to learn about them), we lose our fear of them. At the same time because we are learning about those new and novel things we are also building associations of pleasure with those new things. This subsiding of fear and increasing pleasure associations enable us to gradually build interest. 

Initially this interest is very specific but gradually we generalize it to ever less similar things till it finally flowers into interest in whole subjects or domains of knowledge. 

Boredom. Ultimately as we are exposed to many of these things our ability to learn further about them may come to an end. After this happens each subsequent exposure to the thing is felt as an increasingly uncomfortable sensation that has an adverse affect on the brain.


The brain may try to shut down (go to sleep) or begin to build adverse associations with the very thing that was previously an object of interest. In other words we become bored. With each subsequent exposure, with each overly repeated experience our feelings revert from the pleasantly familiar to the unpleasantly overfamiliarity of aversion and boredom.


The sweet spot. Even though we are drawn to the unusual, the unique and the strange by our curiosity we are also repelled by them. At the same time we have a fear of the unknown which motivates us to avoid the very new, the strange, the not previously experienced, or the unknown. We are attracted then to things or subject matter that lies in a sweet spot somewhere between being familiar and being strange. This sweet spot is where the beginnings of interest can start building. 

Does curiosity follow a bell curve? People who study trends, fads and new things in vogue believe all these follow a bell curve of popularity. They start unpopular they build to a peak as they become more and more familiar through exposure and they then begin to drop off as they become more and more overly familiar. There is a curve that curiosity does seem to follow and it is a bell curve. It is the creative curve. 


Allen Gannett invented this idea in his book of the same name which he applies to creativity. This site takes the position that this curve is more applicable to curiosity than it is to creativity. Having said that this is applicable does not mean that curiosity actually follows this bell curve. This would happen with all curious exploration if curiosity was truly like popularity and fashion and was acting alone, but it is not. Interest comes to the rescue and causes us to generalize our pleasure from learning about, whatever engaged our curiosity, to other similar bits of potential knowledge and thus motivates us to learn it. It can happen that we do lose interest but normally and ideally we do not. Ideally the curve just keeps going up with small plateaus as each individual item peeks.      

Anticipation of pleasure as interest.

Interest is not governed by just by this push pull of familiarity with things alone. Interest is mostly governed by the amount of pleasure we experience when learning. This should work very well as all learning is intrinsically pleasurable. When we learn we associate the pleasure we gain from learning initially with the very specific subject matter that we were learning at the time. 

This leads us to anticipate pleasure in learning this specific subject matter because in the past we have experienced pleasure while learning it or something similar to it. Thus we are motivated to learn more of the same guided by this anticipation of pleasure. In other words any sort of learning can be thought of as positive reinforcement because reward is intrinsically embedded in all learning.

But as explained previously the subject matter of interest is not something that can be nailed down. It starts out a very specific interest in a few objects/data and is then increasingly expanded by being generalized to similar objects/data. It should and often does spread like an infection. With each exposure the associated pleasure should gradually generalize to increasingly less similar objects/data until, only much later, is it finally generalized to whole fields of study.

Exposure fails to generate boredom because interest is transfered to similar objects and data that allow interest to grow exponentially and over shadow any displeasure associated with the objects/data from overfamiliarity. Ultimately it should spread even beyond the initial field of study into other similar fields of study.

Anticipation of displeasure as uninterest.

Unfortunately we also learn things, or try to, while experiencing displeasure or pain. This is not just the kind of displeasure generated by over exposure and over familiarity. It turns out that there are many ways to build up unpleasant associations with learning and unfortunately many of them occur in most learning situations and especially in schools. This can have many unfortunate effects on learning as a whole and can be responsible for curtailing interest growth or even causing negative interest or actual avoidance of the subject matter.

 Interest is fragile. 

Interest is fragile when it first appears, and can come and go quickly. Maria Montessori made popular the idea that children went through periods when they were more disposed to learn than at other times, and that anything that interfered at those times was bad, and any help that could be given at those times was good. In this she was probably correct, though maybe not necessarily as usually interpreted as being linked to some specific time period in the child's life. What happens is, that from minute to minute, from second to second, people (children) become interested in things. The experiencing of pain or displeasure during these fagile moments of fledgling interest can crush them before they any growth can take place.


These initial interests are light or very weak motivations but they are motivations. They are the anticipation of pleasure based on previous experience of pleasure derived from learning something vaguely similar. It is the vagueness of this similarity that makes it weak in motivating. The variables that determine the strength of the new motivation are the amount of similarity to the previous type of learning, and the strength of the pleasure cased by the previous learning. New interests are extremely fragile interests. If they are discouraged in any way they will be lost, sometimes forever. So learners, parents and teachers must be careful not to discourage these glimmers of interest. Indeed they must take advantage of this flickering interest while it is there. They should encourage it and fan it into life.

Later as we build up more and more examples of this subject matter being pleasurable our interest becomes stronger and stronger and we are less likely to to be deterred from learning it. Still at the beginning interest in anything is very weak indeed. It is also a great pity that schools, the very places where we are supposed to learn copiously and most effectively, are often places where we become uninterested in things rather than interested. This is mostly because threat, punishment and coercion is used often and abundantly in schools to motivate. Also because schools, for the most part, give no thought to developing or promoting either curiosity or interest, nor do they even try to make sure learning is an enjoyable experience.

Albert Einstein said it as clearly as anyone can: "It is nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry, for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wrack and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty..."

"No use to shout at them to pay attention. If the situations, the materials, the problems before the child do not interest him, his attention will slip off to what does interest him, and no amount of exhortation of threats will bring it back." John Holt

Motivation and demotivation.

When interest is there we are highly motivated to learn, and so of course learn quickly and well. When we are uninterested we learn badly if at all. However, the pleasures and pain (displeasures) we anticipate, do not occur in isolation one at a time. For any one event or action maybe thousands of pleasures and pains may be anticipated both consciously and unconsciously. This is because, when we do something or something occurs, any number of pleasures and pains may be acting on us. 

Many pleasures may be gained from learning something. There is the pleasure we gain just from learning itself, the pleasure we get from knowing we have done something well or worthwhile, of using our body well or actualizing our potential. These are all intrinsic rewards or pleasures to be anticipated, but there are more concrete or intrinsic pleasures that come from satisfying more basic needs. A single bit of learning may satisfy needs at every level of Maslow's hierarchy. A single bit of learning may make the world more predictable. It may enable us to provide food or shelter for ourselves. It may make us feel safer. It may cause others to love or like us. And it may cause others to hold us in high esteem. Even the most introspective person will never be able to determine all that he is anticipating at any one moment, so certainly nobody else ever could conceive of what of what that person is anticipating at any moment.

Intrinsic rewards. 

Intrinsic rewards are rewards that come from pleasurable feelings produced by our actions which allows us to say that those actions are their own reward.  Feelings such as understanding, knowing, mastery accomplishment, achievement, fulfillment, competence, proficiency, progression, meaning, autonomy, virtue and worthiness are meta motivators and they are very pleasurable feelings.  

The effect of these feelings on children is at first very ephemeral. They hardly compare with the satisfaction of basic needs. But basic needs also provide intrinsic rewards, which young children would normally still not be confident of satisfying themselves. Even these basic needs too then, at first are weak motivators, because of children's inability to know how to satisfy them. However, as children do learn how to satisfy these needs and are thus exposed to the full pleasure that comes from these intrinsic feelings they can become very strong motivators indeed.


Extrinsic rewards as fledgling interest dampeners.

Extrinsic rewards are the application of of rewards by others with the purpose of controlling or manipulating those so rewarded. These external rewards usually seek to satisfy, particularly basic needs, and can overwhelm the delicate pleasures of situational interest created by initial weak intrinsic motives. This has been born out in the research of Lepper, Deci, Ryan, Amibile and many others. On the other hand if these delicate interests are allowed to flower, to become strong individual interests they will lead to many more situations of interest, which they themselves may grow into strong individual interests. 

Punishment by reward. It has been said that extrinsic rewards in many ways act as punishments rather than rewards and for this reason are particularly destructive to interest. A thorny stick is hidden within the carrot. 

Here are several ways in which extrinsic rewards become or act as punishments.

  1. Bribes, displacing intrinsic interest. Interest in learning can be displaced by interest solely in getting an extrinsic reward. Being stronger than intrinsic rewards, extrinsic rewards tend to overwhelm and replace those intrinsic rewards. It might seem like an extrinsic reward should simply add to the existing intrinsic rewards making the activity of learning even more enjoyable, but this is not what happens. Instead the extrinsic rewards seem to convince the learner that they are learning exclusively in order to get the extrinsic reward. The pleasure of learning about that particular subject matter is simply lost in the shuffle.

  2. Status substitution for intrinsic interest. How are you doing? Parents ask it of students and students ask it of themselves. But what it means is where do you stand in relation to your peers. Students are likely to become too concerned with their rank or status in the school or class rather being interested in learning about specific subject matter. Ranking, grading, standing, even acknowledgment or praise can all become extrinsic rewards which are substituted for and worked for instead of interest. Learners can find themselves desiring and lusting after praise and status rather than being lured by the pleasure of learning things they are interested in.  

  3. Negative feelings about previous interests. Extrinsic rewards can produce feelings of being controlled or manipulated. The work of Piaget suggests that both punishment and negative feelings about rewards lead to three possible outcomes: 'calculation of risks' (which means learners spend their time figuring out whether they can get away with something), 'blind conformity' (which means learners simply comply to whatever they are told to do) or 'revolt' (which means that learners are angry and likely to do the opposite of what is being required of them). In all three cases the negative feelings of resentment and lack of control underlie these three conditions. These negative feelings thus become associated with the things the learners were previously interested in and greatly dampen their effect.

  4. Killing trust in others, ourselves and intrinsic interest. Rewards divide us. They set us up to compete with one another for those very rewards. They turn our friends into rivals. They force us to forgo our natural inclination of imparting our knowledge to our peers and in return receiving their knowledge and instead make us untrusting of those peers. Indeed extrinsic rewards do not make us moral but rather lure us to be untrustworthy. When getting an extrinsic reward is all that matters why not cheat? Extrinsic rewards kill trust not only in others and ourselves but the self imposed isolation we experience is associated with the very subjects that once interested us making them far less interesting. Extrinsic rewards shrink our main source of knowledge while simultaneously making that knowledge less interesting.

  5. Suppressing risk taking and creativity for exact reproduction. Although creativity is rewarded by intrinsic rewards it cannot be successfully rewarded extrinsically. Indeed it has been shown by Amible and others that extrinsic rewards have a negative effect on creativity. The reason for this is that creativity is tied by its very nature to variation and novelty. It is tied to the production of actions not previously experienced or performed. On the other hand extrinsic rewards abjure variation and newness and they tend to be conditional on an intended outcome. Extrinsic rewards endeavor to create habits. Their evolutionary function is to find single perfect actions that can be produced automatically without thought to extract us from dangers. Extrinsic rewards then cause actions to converge on an exact reproduction of what is required to get the reward. Risk taking, variation and creativity tend to be suppressed so that requirements can be met and thus rewards can be obtained. 

  6. Not being rewarded punishes intrinsic interest. When some learners are rewarded and some are not rewarded, those who are not rewarded feel something that is indistinguishable from punishment. Indeed it functions exactly the same as a well known behaviorist concept that of negative punishment. Negative punishment occurs when a pleasurable possibility exists and is withdrawn so that the learner never receives it. This is exactly what is perceived when a reward is held out but only given to one or a few. Educators may try to explain to learners that this is not meant to be experienced as a punishment but unfortunately it creates exactly the same feelings as punishment. If it looks like a punishment and feels like a punishment it is probably usually going to be mistaken for a punishment even if that was not the intention.

  7. Negative punishment of intrinsic interest. So any reward that is withdrawn is automatically converted into a punishment. As external or extrinsic rewards rely on someone other than the person receiving the reward at some point they will end. All extrinsic rewards have to come to an end. This is because the person producing the extrinsic reward no longer has a reason to produce it. When a learner leaves a school or finishes a class the extrinsic rewards may stop. When a learner enters the work force the extrinsic rewards may stop. From that point on the learner will experience the learning (and thus interest) as being punished because the extrinsic reward is being withheld or withdrawn. This being the case learning will probably stop and interest will be increasingly diminished.


Other ways and reasons parents and teachers can crush fledgling interests.

Of course children can be dissuaded or diverted from being interested in new subjects in many ways. Parents often see new interests as distractions for children that seem to occupy their minds while they should be learning something else. They try to prevent this new interest from flourishing because it seems to them to be preventing the children learning other things they believe more important. Other reasons parents and teachers have for suppressing new interests are there is not enough time, not enough resources, and of course for teachers there is the importance of a curriculum which must be fully covered.

Parents and teachers can often enable children to flourish by simply getting out of the way.   

Part of what is needed to help children to maintain and flourish in their beginning fragile interests is simply a matter of parents and teachers getting out of the way and letting the children get on with it. John Holt in his book 'How Children Learn' gives many examples of this growth in interests. This process takes place in unique environments where learning through interests is possible because adults do not try to prevent it. Here is one of those environments described by John Holt:

"Some social-studies teachers asked me once, at a meeting, how students might explore and learn independently in their field. For part of an answer, I told a few stories. The first is about a seven year old boy. One day he saw, and read I think in a National Geographic, an article on underwater swimming. Like most kids, he was interested in the scuba equipment, and even more in the varied and colorful fish the divers were seeing and catching, in the whole idea of an underwater world with a life of its own. Excited he talked to his mother about the article. Soon after she found him another article about divers. This time, however, they were not diving for fish, but for treasure - vases, bowls, implements, and weapons lying deep in the hold of a ship that three thousand years before had sunk in the Mediterranean. Everything about this story fascinated the boy, above all the idea that these strange and beautiful objects had been lying there, unknown and forgotten for so long.

He became interested in the Pre-Homeric civilization of Crete and Mycenae that had made these treasures. Helpful adults found him some books about them, which he read. In them mention was made of Homer, and the Trojan War, so he read some abridged versions of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Somewhere in his reading about Troy, he read about the seven cities of Troy, and about Schliemann, the archaeologist who dug them up. He was fascinated with the idea that a city might simply disappear under the ground, and another city be built right on top of it, and so seven times over; he was equally fascinated with the idea of patiently bringing those buried cities into the light again. This mad him want to find out as much as he could about archeology. When I last heard of him, he was reading everything on the subject that he could get his hands on."


Finding the one thing learners are interested in.

It is, however, often not enough for parents or teachers to just get out of the way. Sometimes interests need to be encouraged. This is especially true of the one subject that that a child is most interested in. The book "The Spark" by Kristine Barnett is a kind manual or a love letter on how to encourage what a child most likes to do or learn about. "The Spark" is a remarkable book overflowing with examples of how to do just that.


"The Spark" is about a young mother running a daycare center and a charity called 'Little Light" for helping children who suffer from autism. During the day she looked after other peoples children but at night she provided a place of special care for autistic children. Part of the reason she did this was she also had an autistic son. The important message of the book is Barnett's belief in encouraging whatever any child might be good at or interested in. How she discovered that her autistic son was also a genius is a good example of encouraging such interests. Here is her account from the book:

"Not long after we pulled him out of special ed, it became clear that Jake's particular passion had to do with astronomy and the stars. By age three, he could name every constellation and asterism in the sky...

Right after we started Little Light, Jake became preoccupied with a college-level astronomy textbook someone had left unshelved on the floor at the Barnes & Noble near our house. The book was huge for such a little boy, but he dragged the huge cover open and sat absorbed in it for more than an hour.

It was certainly not a book for a three-year-old. Taking a peek over his shoulder, I was put off by the minuscule text and arcane content. Most of the pages were taken up by maps of different parts of the solar system. There was no narrative at all - no retelling of the Greek myths that gave the constellations their names, not even any scientific explanations - just maps. My eyes glazed over as I flipped through it. What did Jake want with this book?

But when it came time to leave, there was simply no separating boy and book. I would put it back where it belonged and take Jake's hand to leave and he would break away from me and make a beeline right back to it. After a few go rounds, I could see we weren't going anywhere unless that book came with us. I heaved the gigantic thing into my arms, took his hand, and got into line. At least it was heavily discounted.

To my complete surprise, that cumbersome book became Jake's constant companion. Its heft meant that his only way of transporting it around the house was to open the cover and drag it with both hands. After a while, it got so beat-up that Michael [the father] had to reinforce the spine with duct tape. Every time I looked through it, I couldn't believe that this highly technical manual, clearly intended for advanced astronomy students, could possibly be of interest to my little boy.

But it was, and it turned out to be an in. I always felt a little bit like a detective at Little Light. Whatever the children loved would set us to following the breadcrumb trail, finding out bit by bit who they really were. I knew Jake's fascination with this book, as impenetrable as it might have been, was an important clue. So when I saw in the paper that the Holcomb Observatory, a planetarium near our house on the campus of Butler University, would be doing a special program on Mars, I asked Jake if he'd like to go see Mars through a telescope. You would have thought I'd asked him if he wanted ice cream for breakfast lunch and dinner. He pestered me so much that I thought the day would never come...

The lobby was spectacular, but almost instantly I wished we were back outside. I'd thought we'd be able to zip in to get a quick look through the telescope without disturbing anyone, but I discovered that to look through the telescope, we'd have to take a tour of the planetarium. Worse still, as I learned after we'd already waited in line and bought tickets, the tour included an hour-long, college-level presentation in a silent crowded auditorium was not at all what I'd had in mind, and it was the last place on earth anyone in her right mind would voluntarily take an autistic three-year-old.

But I'd promised , and Jake was sure jazzed to be there. I told him I'd made a mistake. I explained about the tour and the lecture and asked him if he would rather go get a pizza instead. But he was adamant; he wanted to stay. While we were waiting for the show to start, he took me by the hand up the curving metal stairs, along which hung enormous photographs of deep space. For half an hour, he dragged up and down those stairs, chattering at me while I scrambled after him... 

Distracted as I was... it sounded to me as if Jake was giving a convincing lecture on each photo. He was rattling off terms and language unfamiliar to me, and while I couldn't tell if he was making the stuff up or imitating someone., it sounded pretty impressive.

Eventually, the doors to the lecture hall opened, and the crowd filed in. As soon as we got inside, I thought, O boy, this whole thing is about to go bad. The room was small and hushed; a Power Point presentation was ready to go. The first slide had to do with nineteenth-century telescope resolution. The only seats left were right up front.

I started digging through my bag, desperate to find something - animal crackers? a crayon? some gum? - that might stave off a complete meltdown. By the time the lecturer stepped up to the podium I was in a near panic, and it only got worse. As the slides started clicking by, Jake began reading quite loudly, some of the words popping up on the screen: "Light year!" "Diurnal!" "Mariner!" 

I shushed him, sure the people around us were going to give me the stink eye, hissing at me to get my kid out of this place we clearly had no business inhabiting. Sure enough, people around us were starting to notice, and to whisper, but it soon became clear that they weren't so much annoyed as they were amused and a bit incredulous.

'Is that little kid reading?' I hear someone say. 'Did he just say perihelial?'

Then the lecturer introduced a history of scientific observations about the possibility of water on Mars, starting with the nineteenth-century astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli, who believed he saw canals on the planet's surface. Hearing this, Jake started to laugh. In my anxiety, I thought he was going to lose it, but when I looked up at him, I could see he was genuinely cracking up, like the idea of canals on Mars was the greatest knee-slapper he'd ever heard...

Again, I quieted him down. But I could see the ripple spread through the crowd as people started craning their necks to see what was going on.

Then the lecturer asked a question of the audience: 'Our moon is round. Why do you think the moons around Mars are elliptical, shaped like potatoes?'

Nobody in the crowd answered, probably because no one had the slightest idea. I certainly didn't. Then Jakes hand shot up. 'Excuse me, but could you please tell me the size of these moons?' This was more conversation than I'd seen from Jake in his entire life, but then again, Id never tried to talk to him about Mars's moons. The lecturer, visibly surprised, answered him. To the astonishment of everyone, including me Jake responded. 'Then the moons around Mars are small, so they have a small mass. The gravitational effects of the moons are not large enough to pull them into complete spheres.'

He was right.

The room went silent, all eyes on my son. Then everyone went nuts, and for a few minutes the lecture came to a halt.

The professor eventually regained control of the room, but my mind was somewhere else. I was completely freaked out. My three-year-old had answered a question that had been too difficult for anyone else in the room, including the Butler students and all the adults present. I felt too dizzy to move."

Three types of interest.

There are three types of interest and they are 'Situational Interest' where interest is in something stimulating in the present environment, 'Individual Interest' where interest is in a group of related or similar things that have been built up over time, and 'General Interest' where interest is in everything, and although built up over time, can be seen as a kind of character trait. These three types of interest are very much interrelated and dependent on each other, and in turn are dependent on the freedom of the person to indulge in them.  

Situational interest.

How does situational interest come about? As explained above our initial interest in something comes about in two different ways. We are attracted to things because they are different to anything we have experienced before (curiosity) and because they are similar something we have experienced before (interest). 

So when we enter a new environment the situation may seem weird or strange but we find it attractive to learn about precisely because it is unknown. It is its lack of previously being experienced that creates its situational interest. But this is a very fragile form of potential interest. If it immediately brings pleasure in the learning of it, it become less fragile and becomes what is then more properly called true situational interest. 

Other than that initial tentative state all interest in a situation comes about the same way all interest comes about, by generalizing from one particular context to another. In becoming interested in something we are taking a particular event or bit of information and generalizing it to create a mini category of similar events or bits of information. We then form a theory that the pleasure gained in undertaking the production of event: (A) may be also gained from undertaking the production of event (B). Although there is pleasure to be gained in learning anything, we do not automatically expand what we think is pleasurable to all things. Instead, our interest in things grows in small increments, starting out being about one thing, and then gradually stretching out to encompass something similar.

We generalize slowly from one thing to things that are similar. We come to the world with some interests, some things that we have found pleasurable in the past. The previous situation may only be a little similar to the current situation, but that can be enough to precipitate action or engagement in a learning activity that we think may be pleasurable. If it turns out that it does give us some pleasure, and that validates our theory of possible pleasure occurring, then the likelihood of engaging in the activity again goes up and situational interest develops. Each time our theory is validated and we experience pleasure from the activity, we are in the process of forming an interest beyond the current situation and beginning to build the next type of interest that of individual interest.

The initial interest, or interest in a situation, is a time of critical importance to future learning, when we can become more interested or less interested. The person who is strongly interested in horses (for whom horses are an individual interest) is not going to become uninterested in horses just because he walks in some horse dung, but a person who is only vaguely interested in horses (who has ventured into an interesting situation) may become uninterested in this way. Teachers in particular need to be very aware just how much they can help or hinder in this process.

Individual interest.

Individual interests grow out of situational interest. Experience of pleasure in several situations that have elements in common tend to be grouped together into sets of interest that have those things in common. These, as we add more and more bits, gradually become more and more defined as an individual interest. It should be remembered however, that these individual interests are quite unique to each person. If I am interested in science and you are interested in science we may not in fact have any interests in common, because science is a very big area of knowledge. Even in a much more confined category such as chemistry this may still be true. Indeed our own interests are always growing and changing so much that our interests of a month ago may be quite different to our interests now.

How does individual interest come about? Individual interest comes about for particular fields of learning the same way all interest comes about by generalizing from one particular context to others. In becoming interested in something we are taking a particular event or bit of information and generalizing it to create a category of similar events or bits of information and then form a theory that the pleasure gained in undertaking the production of event: (A) may be also gained from undertaking the production of events (B), (C), (D), (E) etc. Although there is pleasure to be gained in learning anything, we tend to generalize to other things that have some elements in common. The more bits of information or activities we add to such a category, the more defined that category becomes, and the easier it becomes to generalize correctly in anticipating pleasure. We begin to generalize that from that category to other bits of information, and in so doing, become very likely to be correct in predicting that the learning of those bits will be pleasurable.

When we say someone is interested in something, we are talking about something that is ongoing and growing in their lives, an individual interest. May be they are interested in cars, or child development, or physics, or art, or heavy machinery. These are all categories of things, or activities, that people can become interested in over a long period of time, perhaps for life. This individual interest is what keeps us interested, when things happen to impede our interest. If we have an unpleasant experience of crashing in a car, and if we are interested in cars, that will not put us off. Likewise we will not be put off physics, if a teacher tells us that our work in physics is too untidy. We are protected, at least initially, by this individual interest we have built up toward science over many years, which fortifies us.

It is interesting to note however, that there is a mutually supportive interaction between these situational and individual types of interest. The more situations of interest we encounter the more possibility there is of encountering something truly different. These outliers can become cornerstones for building a new individual interest out of one of these encounters. On the other hand, the more different types of interests we build up, the more likely it is that we will often encounter a situation that is of situational interest. It should also be noted that the more and more different the individual interests we build up the more likely we are to become generally interested in everything.

General interest.

How does general interest come about? When our theories, about possible bits of learning causing us pleasure, are each confirmed, they give us increasing confidence that we can form other similar theories. As the number of these theories grow with the increasing numbers of individual interests that we form, and as these interests often grow together into even vaster interests, we begin to form a theory about the possibility of any situation being interesting. Basically, as we generalize out to similar things, we are also in the process of generalizing out to a huge diversity of things. So, although interests expand unequally, there is also a gradual shift to generalizing that anything might be interesting, not just similar things. Thus we may form a theory that any new experience may be pleasurable, and a starting point for developing an individual interest. Thus the anticipation of pleasure thus becomes embedded in the very process of learning making all things attractive to learn. We may in this way develop into a person that is generally interested in everything, and in fact we all do, to a greater or lesser extent. Ideally we may develop into a what is often called a sort of generally interested personality type or a life long learner.


Although many pleasures are already there in most of the activities we perform all the time, and already intrinsically motivating, they can be catalyzed by others. People who are willing and able to recognize interest in the weak forms of curiosity and situational interest, can facilitate quick and easy indulgence of it, when it occurs. We do not need to motivate others to learn so much, as make time or equipment quickly available to enable the children to indulge their nascent motivation. It is when the weak motivation of situational interest first delicately blooms, that help may be needed to enable it to blossom into an individual interest. We must also be very careful not to inhibit children when they are beginning a new interest, but rather do all we can to facilitate their indulgence in this new interest.

It is often not convenient for parents or teachers to encourage some new situational interest. Either they haven't got the time, or it isn't the place, or they feel the child needs to focus on something else. All of this can be very demotivating to the child, and thus can precipitate a loss of opportunity to develop a new individual interest. Parents and teachers need to find ways to overcome this tenancy in themselves.

The strong motivation of each person's deep individual interests do not need to be helped in this way. But it is these strong individual interests that that can be co-opted if we wish people to be highly intrinsically motivated. We can co-opt these strong individual interests to be associated with less strong interests and situations, where for one reason or another, there is no interest.

No need of facilitation in those with highly developed interests.

As explained at the beginning of this page, people who have a highly developed interest in some subject matter really need nothing to guide them in their learning. They ask the right questions, and they set for themselves the right amount of challenge in indulging in their activities. From the research done on such people we learn that they are superior in every manner of learning. K. Ann Renninger puts it like this:

"Students working with contents of individual interests are typically focused, relaxed, and engaged, in comparison with the way they work with subject content that does not interest them. They also are likely to achieve better grades and do well on tests. In fact when contexts of individual interest are inserted in expository passages and contrasted with contexts that are of less well developed interest, for example, students are likely to recall more points, recall information from more paragraphs, recall more topic sentences, write more sentences, provide more detailed information about topic read, make fewer errors in written recall, and provide additional topic-relevant information."

If you are surprised by this glowing evidence from research, you really should not be, because this can be found at all times in the activities of people in everyday life around us. Other research tells us, that people who have highly developed interest in specific subject matter, are better able to persist in the face of frustration and feelings of failure, to find answers to questions raised by failure, and in the end resolve such difficulties. They are also more likely to take risks and be resourceful at problem solving. In some ways they are more tolerant of questions they cannot find the answers to, in that they do not expunge them from their minds, but also they do not give up trying to solve them.

The truly interesting discovery about people who are highly interested in a specific subject matter is, that they are not goal oriented in so far as they can not usually articulate any one goal of their learning and are normally unaware of such goals in themselves or others. Learning is a strange thing. We cannot have goals in it because it is about what we do not know. We cannot have goals because we do not know where we are going or what we are going to learn. Interest guides people to find the information they need when they need it. Interested people really do not require a teacher, nor is a teacher usually useful for them, other than to provide access to materials and information otherwise unavailable. The main job of teachers may in fact be to facilitate those who are currently not interested into becoming interested.

The myth of coercion.

There is an unfounded theory among educators, that although many activities are intrinsically motivating, that children are by nature lazy, and can only become interested in such activities if they are forced or lured into engaging in it. It is difficult for the ordinary person to see this theory as invalid, as the educators can produce endless examples of children, who seem interested in almost nothing. One should keep in mind however, that these children can usually only be produced after they have been in the school system for some time. In other words the educators can only produce such children after the school system has managed to kill their interests. Some say, that far from killing students interests the schools do their best to maintain and encourage student's interests. This may be true of certain schools and for certain types of approved interests, such as interest in a particular acceptable school subject, but there seems little evidence of this even, in an average school. Such people will explain the gradual loss of interests as children go to school as a natural phenomena, but this would have little evolutionary value, and does not seem apparent in more primitive peoples, where schooling does not exist in the form we expect.

Can or should we use extrinsic motivators?

The pragmatic question is, if these unmotivated students exist regardless of how they came to be, what should be done to reengage them in activities and to encourage their forming of new interests? While this might not actually be the right question to ask, perhaps there is an answer to it. There can be no doubt that we can get children to engage in these intrinsically motivating activities through the use of threats or offers of extrinsic rewards. Thus their interest should then be activated, through the anticipation of these newly experienced pleasures.

But adding these pleasure anticipations together in this way, can be more damaging than helpful. Extrinsic rewards have been shown, in extensive research, to be damaging to intrinsic motivation when conditional, especially when extrinsic reward is applied to situational interest.


Some people/institutions try to bribe children to learn, giving them extrinsic rewards for learning, such as sweets or gold stars. The idea presumably, is that once they start learning the other pleasures anticipated will continue to motivate when the artificial rewards are withdrawn. This seems as if it should work, and does in special circumstances to some extent. But unfortunately, the withdrawal of the reward is often interpreted as pain, so the child anticipates the pain of not getting the reward, and this can be stronger than intrinsic rewards caused by situational interest. It has been shown experimentally, that this is also experienced as a loss of self-determination or autonomy, and is accompanied by feelings of being controlled or manipulated. This would indicate, that we should avoid adding extrinsic pleasures to intrinsic pleasures already acting on children, wherever possible.  

Facilitating interest in the uninterested.

There many ways to engage children in activities without using extrinsic motivators. Typically, there are four ways of enabling students to motivate themselves through interest.

  1. Provide situations of interest.

  2. Enable students to experience more of what is available for them to experience. This might be called providing an enriched or stimulating environment. Perhaps the most important function of a teacher or facilitator is simply let a student know what is available to learn. To expose students to the incredible variety of things that they have an opportunity to become interested in. This will be covered fully in learning key no. 9 about establishing choices.

  3. Provide personal enthusiasm and other means of learning contagion.

  4. This is also an enriched or stimulating environment, but rather than just providing options or choices, a person acts as a model of being himself intrinsically motivated. This inspirational social contagion will be covered fully in learning key no. 7 about social contagion.

  5. Provide investigation into what the student already knows.

  6. This kind of investigation will provide information about the students current individual interests, if any exist, and if not will reveal likely situations that will be interesting where the development of situational interests may begin. This will be covered fully in learning key no. 8 about building on what is already there.

  7. Provide real competence and confidence building sort of feedback.

  8. Positive feedback is effective if it contains information about the activity the person just performed. In other words it should be about what the person did right, and what can be done about improving the rest. To be really effective it also needs to be about the amount of improvement that has occurred, and how much effort or persistence was applied. This will be covered fully in learning key no. 2 about gaining and building real confidence.

If all else fails jump start.

While it is always better to rely on intrinsic motivators, it is certainly possible to use extrinsic motivators in extreme situations, where students have reached a state of being insensitive to intrinsic motives. Extrinsic motivators can thus be used to jump start people if the people have no interest in an activity or have an adverse motive.

Now this may sound like a contradiction of everything this site has shown of all the bad that can that can come of using any kind of extrinsic motivator. The sad truth is that it is just such a contradiction. The reason for such an inclusion here is to try and minimize the worst effects such efforts. 

This means threatening the person if they do not perform the activity or offering a reward if the activity is engaged in. For this to be remotely effective, however, the person doing this manipulative facilitation needs to be sensitive to the appearance of any intrinsic interest in the target person, and be prepared to quickly discontinue any threat or offer of reward, as soon as any interest begins to appear. Because there is no previous interest or intrinsic motivation, no loss of interest or intrinsic motivation should occur. This site cautions teachers to use such inducements sparingly, and only when no alternative exists. The fact is of course, that this is the technique used in normal schools all the time, where it is used very ineffectively. It is ineffective because threats and rewards are never discontinued with the appearance of any intrinsic motivation, and it is applied to all students without regard for whether the student is initially intrinsically motivated or not.

Facilitating interest in those with lower developed individual interests.

In our culture, in western society, we are often required by that society, to learn things that we are either not interested in or in which we are only beginning to become interested. We have some interest but at a low level of interest. Students can have four types of responses to lowly developed individual interests:

  1. Commit to a goal that entails forcing one's self.

  2. Some people with a low individual interest are able to still motivate themselves by setting a learning goal for themselves, which they use to try and maintain interest. By setting for themselves some marker to attain, they can then sort of force themselves to learn in order to achieve that goal. This as explained previously is a very difficult concept as there is no way to know what we my want or need to know. Psychologically speaking, the goal becomes part of the person's self concept, but the various things to be learned do not, and remain of very low interest. The result is usually a very conflicted person, who learns, but not well. Unlike people who are highly interested, these people tend to become increasingly less motivated as time goes on due to feeling of loss of autonomy. Teachers may also try to set goals for their students, but this is likely to produce even greater feelings of loss of autonomy and subsequent inability to retain the knowledge. For goal setting to have any useful effect in this way the goals have to be set by the student not the parent or the teacher. Although it is possible to learn this way more or less without any interest, this is a bad way to learn. This is because it not only takes the pleasure out of learning but it can also produce an aversion to whole domains of learning.  

  3. Include elements of high interest into the knowledge to be learned.

  4. Others with low individual interest may try to learn by injecting elements of subject content that they are highly interested in into subject contents that they are only moderately interested in. In doing this, they are attempting to sort of trick themselves, into a more enriched or deep valuing of the subject content. This strategy, surprisingly, is more effective than goal setting because it is more likely to encourage the development of stronger individual interest, thus eventually allowing high individual interest to transition from the low individual interest to normal individual interest. There could be many ways to do this, such as inserting uniquely interesting elements into texts, like making mathematics about sport. 

    This can also be done by external people such as parents and teachers. People can do this, by first finding elements of high interest hidden in subject matter of low interest. People who have an interest in discussing things with others might be able to make subjects more interesting simply by discussing them with others. This is in fact a strategy often employed by students. These would also be a good strategies for teachers to use in schools to make learning more individual for each student, and thus more interesting to each student. This is by far the most effective tool parents and teachers can use to try and increase interest and increase intrinsic motivation.

  5. Do only enough to get the reward offered or get by the threat.

  6. Even when people have some interest in some subject matter, they may ignore this completely and end up reacting to the subject matter as if they were not interested in it at all. They may instead react to it as if the only thing motivating them were any extrinsic motivators, such as reward or threat of punishment. In this case people are likely to do only as much as is necessary to avoid the punishment or to obtain the reward. In this way they will develop only enough knowledge to perform the tasks required and will typically hold little value for that knowledge and little likelihood of integrating it into their knowledge base. Evidence of this can be seen in the work of people who are good at passing exams, but have very little real knowledge, because they do not retain it. You also see this in some people's daily work, where they do only enough to get by.

  7. Failure to engage.

  8. Finally people although moderately interested in some subject matter, may however, fail to engage in the activity of learning it at all, and in fact may be unable to engage in learning it. Perhaps they have not developed the skills necessary to motivate themselves when their interest is too low, or perhaps their inability may stem from the effort of others to motivate them, but which instead causes resistance.

Teachers and peers.

In school students spend so much time working with subject contents, for which they have no individual interest, or at least have very low individual interest. Because of this, and the fact that to be successful in society one needs to learn these subject contents, students need to be supported and facilitated by an expert or peer in their efforts to engage in learning these subject contents. Here's the thing. Low individual interests are the beginnings of high individual interests, but they are at a point of being very fragile, and only become stronger as more information is collected to form an individual interest knowledge base. It is not just situational interest, that requires support in the form of material, hints as to were to find information, informational feedback about shared values and information about the extent of improvement are all required. These are also the best way for teachers and peers to encourage other students, who are just beginning to form an individual interest that is still weak. People with low individual interest can be helped best by:

  1. Help with the procurement of materials necessary to maintain interest.

  2. Help with the finding of the information necessary to maintain interest.

  3. Help with the informational feedback about competence and improvement necessary to maintain interest.

  4. Help to infuse elements of high interest into the knowledge to be learned and to find elements of high interest hidden in subject matter of low interest as in the second student reaction above.

When is facilitation most needed?

As explained at the beginning of this page, a child's major interests can unfortunately be suppressed, either intentionally or unintentionally, by parents, teachers and society. When this happens children find themselves highly frustrated and little interested in learning other things. When this happens children are learning that learning is painful and unpleasant. They are learning not to learn. What they need is someone to help them rediscover what they are most interested in. They need someone to facilitate their discovery of something to learn that gives them pleasure again, and in doing so, reawakens their intrinsic motivation to learn. 

The element. In his book "The Element" Ken Robertson talks about each person's main interest as being his or her element. This is from the idea that each person can be in their element. The importance of interest, as explained above, is in its ability to spread itself to other similar items and domains of knowledge by generalizing to include those similar items, and eventually those domains. Loss of one's most important interest is a loss of the main source of this disseminating function of interest. If the intrinsic motivation to learn is revived for one subject it surprisingly tends to spread to other subjects. The encouraging of a child's greatest interest can help revive a general interest that quickly spreads to learning all things. In her book "The Spark" Kristine Barnett shows us over and over again, how to find and encourage each child's passion, and in doing so revive each one's general interest in learning:

"I had always encouraged the children in my daycare to lean into their passions, and over the years I saw how astonishing the results could be when they had the opportunity and resources to do so. When I noticed Elliott, one of my daycare kids, putting his fingers into the screw holes at the back of Michael's brand new television, I drove straight over to the nearest electronics repair store (remember those?) and told the guy behind the counter that I'd take all his hopeless cases - all the radios and televisions he couldn't fix. 'As long as its not radioactive or broken in a truly dangerous way, I'll take it,' I said. What looked like a gigantic pile of junk to most people became hours of fun for Elliott, especially when I presented him with the brand-spanking-new, candy-apple-red, six head screwdriver he'd need to take everything apart...

At the Salvation Army, I found old alarm clocks for Elliott to take apart and fix and an expensive but never used watercolor set for artistic Claire.

I'd seen the attention the kids in the daycare gave to activities they loved and the way they flourished when they were given the time and space to to pursue those interests, so it was never a surprise years later to field calls with updates from grateful moms. That was how I learned that so many of the daycare kids had flourished as they'd grown older. Claire, for instance, moved on to art classes and a probable internship at a museum in Indianapolis.

Elliott began building computers from scratch at age ten and spent high school 'hackintoshing' in his parents garage, using PC parts to build hybrid machines that ran the apple operating system. During an internship at a clinic in our community, he designed a piece of specialized medical equipment that is still used by doctors there today. He did all this before leaving high school.

Over and over again, I noticed how doing what they loved brought all of the children's other skills up as well. Even as a very little girl, Lauren's favorite thing to do was to 'play house' while at daycare. She'd happily help me fold laundry or put smaller babies down for their naps, but she wasn't very interested in what might be considered more academic pursuits, such as reading or counting. Her mother continued to send her to me for after-school babysitting even as Lauren got older, and I began teaching her to make some of the pastries that Stephanie and I had learned to make in my grandmother's kitchen. We spent hours together measuring and stirring, making more cookies and cakes than we could possibly eat.

Lauren's mother had the idea to drop some of the extra treats off at a food pantry one day, but it was Lauren's idea to begin volunteering there. Her mom was understandably worried that the hours of baking and serving in the soup kitchen would get in the way of Lauren's schoolwork, but I felt confident that her other skills would naturally improve if she was encouraged to do what she loved, and her mother was convinced. By age eleven, Lauren was a fixture at the soup kitchen on weekends and had won a number of community service awards - all the while maintaining straight A's in school, as well as starring in school plays and local theater productions."


Passion beyond mere interest.

There is, however, something that propels people forward in gaining knowledge, that is beyond situational interest, individual interest and general interest. Call it commitment. Call it passion. There is something that can galvanize ordinary people into becoming exceptional people, or into becoming eminent in, some field of study, or in the exercise of some skill. Usually this can traced to a single event in a great person's life, a point where something happens and suddenly a great desire is triggered in them. Suddenly they say to themselves, "That is what I want to do with my life", or more usually, "That is who I want to be." What is it in great peoples lives that causes that moment often to come about?

In his book "The Talent Code" Daniel Coyle provides us with several possible answers:

  1. I can do that.

  2. One possible answer is that a person may already be personally interested in something, and then some event occurs that incredibly shows that he may, through hard work and constant improvement, become the very best at that thing he is interested in. Perhaps it is someone he knew, who never seemed particularly talented, but who was hard working. When you notice such a person unexpectedly thrust into the limelight of being eminent in his or her field, your life can change. Suddenly your interest is turned into passion as you realize, "I can do that, I can be him. This is exemplified by the story of the small island of Curacao. Coyle in his book explains how a small island managed to produce a champion team of baseball players.

    Rocking Curacao. Coyle explains: "...Curacao's success can be traced to to a single moment of ignition - actually two moments, lasting approximately three seconds each. They both happened at Yankee Stadium on October 20, 1996 in the opening game of the world series. ...An unknown nineteen-year-old Curacaoan rookie named Andruw Jones stood at the plate... Jones recognized the spin on the slider and slammed the pitch ten rows into the left field seats. ...Like a shock wave , Jones historic feat was flashed on screens around the world. But all that was nothing compared to the blast that rocked Jones's home town of Willemstad. Curacao's Little League founder, Frank Curiel, remembers the sound he heard when Jones hit the home run. 'It was very, very loud. Fire crackers, yelling everyone shouting, everyone waking up.' A few weeks later a Little League sign-ups the first aftershock showed up in the form of four hundred new kids. Their motivation was perhaps all the stronger since they new that Jones hadn't even been one of the best players on the island."

  3. A chance.

  4. Another possibility is that you may be, through luck or design given a one time chance. When Bill Joy and Bill Gates were given a chance to write code on the most up to date computers, they tried it, liked it, and their passion grew quickly and quietly. But they had other chances it was not just a one time thing. When this happens to people in distressed circumstances who are perhaps poor or part of a usually unacceptable minority group, a chance (to get out) may mean a lot more. Such people may be galvanized into commitment, in a way that is impossible for those in more comfortable circumstances.

    O lucky me. This second possibility is beautifully illustrated by Daniel Coyle as follows: "In the early 1980s a young violin teacher named Roberta Tzavaras decided to bring classical music to three Harlem public elementary schools. The problem was, there were far more students than violins. To solve this problem, as well as to underscore her belief that every child was capable of learning to play the violin, Tzavaras decided to hold a lottery. The first class made up of lottery winners, made surprisingly fast progress. So did the second and the third. The program thrived to become the Opus 118 Harlem Center for Strings. Tzavaras and her students have performed at Carnegie Hall, at Lincoln Center, and on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Their success inspired a documentary film, 'Small Wonders' and a 1999 Hollywood movie called 'Music of the Heart'."

  5. Commitment.

  6. Another possibility that Coyle suggests, is to be found in the fact, that of people need to make themselves safe. The evidence he gives for this is the extraordinary number of eminent people who have lost a parent early in life. While this site does not dispute his evidence we think he may have gotten this wrong. It is, perhaps more likely, that this loss of a parent may simply provide the necessity of becoming responsible for satisfying their own needs early in life. This in turn, may simply force the making of a career choice early in life, and likewise making a commitment to it. As Coyle also points out the very act of making a commitment, as one would expect in terms of cognitive dissonance, is central to improvement. Coyle tells the story of a study by Gary McPherson on children playing musical instruments, where it was found that commitment proved to be more important than practice as far as improvement was concerned.

    A tiny powerful idea. Coyle explains the results of the study as follows: "The differences were staggering. With the same amount of practice the long-term-commitment group out performed the the short-term-commitment group by 400 percent. The long term commitment group with a mere twenty minutes of weekly practice, progressed faster than the short-termers who practiced of an hour and a half. When long term commitment combined with high levels of practice skills skyrocketed. ...At some point very early on they had a crystallizing experience that brings the idea to the fore, that says I am a musician."

Facilitating the igniting of young minds.

Obviously facilitating passion (ignition commitment) is a very difficult undertaking. There are, however, some sorts of environments that are more likely to produce ignition commitment and passion than others.

  1. Bring children into contact with eminent people.

  2. An environment where children are living with, interacting with and observing eminent people, is one where they will be motivated to imitate those eminent people, and where it will not seem such an impossibility to become eminent. As the stories point out this works best when the eminent come in contact before they are eminent.

  3. Keep track of the children.

  4. Keep track of all the children, so that if any become great or eminent, this can quickly be relayed to those other children that knew them. In this information age it would be much easier to keep track of what is happening to students after they leave school. Living in an environment where people you knew have gone on to become famous or eminent in some field, is where young minds are likely to become ignited with passion.

  5. Provide chances for all children.

  6. Random chance provided by a lottery, can only achieve this high motivation of passion, if the child in question recognizes and believes he or she is getting a chance. For instance, both Bill Joy and Bill Gates recognized they were being given a chance, a privilege, few others in the world would be given, and they took full advantage of it. Likewise the music lottery of Tzavaras worked fine with with poor minorities, but did not work with middle class children who did not see it as a chance. Scholarships are for the poor and excluded and they provide the poor with a chance. Much more could be done to provide the poor with chances with a little imagination. For middle class children who already have most of the chances in life it is difficult to provide them with one unless with something truly extraordinary as was the case with Bill Joy and Bill Gates.

  7. Encourage responsibility.

  8. Encourage children to take responsibility for themselves and others early in life. There is often a lot of talk at schools about students taking responsibility for their actions. This is usually meaningless. For the most part school administrators do not want students to make decisions about their own lives. School administrators for the most part see decision making about students as their job. What the schools as a rule mean by responsibility, is that the students should listen to what the schools are demanding, and comply with those demands. But this is very weird thinking as how can children take responsibility for other people's decisions. They certainly have responsibility to decide whether or not to comply with instructions, but beyond that they get no practice in either making decisions or taking responsibility for those decisions. For the students to learn how to truly take responsibility, they need to be able to make decisions that will affect their lives and eventually the lives of others. In order to be able to commit to something, students need to delve (at least superficially) into various high level subjects early, and then have an opportunity to make choices as to what they want to do or be.

The lost opportunity.

The most important lost opportunity in learning is our general inability to convert situational interest into individual interest. While the answers to this problem, as explained above, are quite simple and fairly easy to implement, they are nevertheless usually prevented from being implemented. They are prevented mostly by shifting attention to the goals of parents and schools, goals to make sure students' knowledge is verified by the obtaining of degrees. How often do you find parents saying, 'Don't do that, don't learn that, learn this instead'? Teachers almost have to stop children learning in one area so they can learn in another. If we could just provide children with materials and knowledge when they show glimmers of interest, instead of when it is convenient for teachers and schools or even parents, we would build individual interest and have far greater and wider knowledge. It comes back to the old question of what is important. Is it important to have real knowledge that grows out of interest and thus meaning, or is it more important to have a piece of paper that says you have such knowledge?

Life long learning.

The most important thing about learning is that we can and should want to learn every day of our lives. The only way we are going to do this is through our curiosity and interests. We do it because we are always facing situations of situational interest that prompt our curiosity, and because our own web of individual interests continues to grow throughout out lives. We also continue to learn because our general interest grows and strengthens throughout our lives.

How does this happen? A good analogy is an atomic bomb. In an A bomb the breakdown of matter gives off energy causing other nearby matter to break down, which gives off even more energy. If you put enough of this matter in the process of breaking down together, so much energy is released, that it reaches what is called a critical mass. This results in a chain reaction that obliterates a small amount of the bomb's mater turning it into explosive energy. The result is an atomic blast that can level a city.

You can think of interest in much the same way. First we become interested in specific things because we venture into situations of interest. It could be said that we are exposed to novel situations about which we become curious. As these situations provide us with the pleasure of learning about them we start to seek out similar situations. We thus develop individual interests from these, which grow similar types of knowledge. As more and more of these interests appear and grow, they eventually grow together into clumps that we call areas of individual interest. These areas of individual interest gain momentum and grow ever faster. The bigger they get the more they fuse together and grow even faster. Meanwhile, if new situational interest is not ignored, and other individual interests are allowed to grow, a general interest in learning develops. At some point this process becomes like a critical mass and the chain reaction becomes impossible to stop. People who reach this point will continue to learn all their lives.

Needs Interest Method Reality Keys How to Help Creative Genius Future What is Wrong Theories Plus
How the World Works Confidence Failure Criticism Teach to Learn Intellectual Contagion Starting Place
Making Choices Learn to Learn Learn the Future Evaluation