Exploration & Surprise

Some weeks back, I posted about surprise. That is, a new model that says that that our brains work to minimize surprise. We learn so as not to be wrong. And that made sense in one way, but left another gap. Another article explains (well, partly; the mathematics are more than I want to wade into) further, and that gives me a new handle on thinking about designing transformative experiences. It’s about the value of exploration to accompany surprise.

The problem with the original story of us just minimizing surprise is that this leads to another inference. Why wouldn’t we want to just hang in a dark warm room?  The notion of minimizing surprise did explain people who don’t seem keen to learn, but many of us are. And, as Raph Koster told us in A Theory of Fun, the drive to play games seems to be learning! We want exploration, and the outcomes aren’t certain. This is in conflict.

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