Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis


Best Senior Thesis in Neuroscience

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Sharda Umanath

Reader 2

Gautam Agarwal

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© 2024 Alexis Lee


There are several competing theories about the relationship between curiosity and metacognitive judgment, or one’s assessment of their own knowledge. Novelty theories say that curiosity is highest for wholly unknown information; complexity theories say that curiosity is highest for moderately unknown information; and the Region of Proximal Learning (RPL) theory says that curiosity is highest for almost-known information. The present study aimed to address how curiosity differs within marginal knowledge (MK), memory content that is available but not accessible, across two experiments. In both experiments, participants responded to 100 short-answer general knowledge questions, selecting a phenomenological category to represent their mental experience if the answer was unknown. For Experiment 1, participants selected between “I don’t remember” or “I don’t know.” For Experiment 2, they selected between four categories representing the full range of MK, from “It’s on the tip of my tongue” (closest to retrieval) to “I have never known or seen this information” (furthest from retrieval). After responding to each question, participants were prompted to indicate their curiosity to see the answer. In both experiments, participants’ curiosity was highest for categories closest to retrieval and decreased as proximity to retrieval decreased. Participants were less curious about correct responses than incorrect responses. These findings are most supported by the RPL theory of curiosity.