Surprise and safety

As I reflect further on the improved surprise model, I realize there’s one thing I missed. The model gives a motivation for learning, and an implication for design. But there’s one thing more in the model, and one more implication for design. And this has to do with safety.

So, first, the initial model says that we learn to minimize surprise. We’re driven to remove the mismatch between what we expect and what occurs. This could lead to a desire to do nothing, or as little as possible, but a further elaboration says we also want to maximize outcomes. Thus, we won’t just sit around, but explore.

That means that helping learners know 2 things: that they want to know this (it’s to optimize what they care about), and that they don’t know it (the gap they have to minimize). If we do that, they’re ready to learn. But there’s one more thing.

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