Wired reports on a unique experiment that was meant to discover the impact different approaches to introducing a toy might have on the children’s attitude and pursuit of that toy. The first group was given the toy by an adult who acted as if she had just discovered it, and encouraged to find out exactly what it might do. The other group was given a more intentional tutorial to help them get started. The results were telling:
After the demonstration, both groups of children were given the toy to play with. Not surprisingly, all of the children pulled on the first tube and laughed at the squeak. But then something interesting happened: While the children from the second group quickly got bored with the toy, those in the first group kept on playing with it. Instead of being satisfied with the squeaks, they explored the other tubes and discovered all sorts of hidden surprises. According to the psychologists, the different reactions were caused by the act of instruction. When students are given explicit instructions, when they are told what they need to know, they become less likely to explore on their own. Curiosity is a fragile thing.