Omnivore, carnivore, herbivore, or informavore…which are you? What about your students? I routinely assign students research work by asking them to obtain articles which support or disprove concepts discussed during psychology class lectures. Some students find this to be “busy work or boring” and have a very negative mindset when completing the work. Others see it as “just something else to take up my time that is not going to be of any benefit except to help me pass this course.” Still others will email me with such comments as “WOW! I never thought about those two things being connected,” or, “This information was just what I was looking for to answer my question, and then it made me wonder if there was another connection I could make, or wonder how that effects this, etc, etc.!” The last response is diagnostic of a true informavore!
Informavore : technically defined as being characteristic of an individual or organism that consumes information. The term describes human behavior from the standpoint of our information- and technology- driven society. The thrill of the chase! From a historical perspective, humans used a “ foraging” theory. Our ancestors used a scent to track food and then locate what would be called “grazing patches” where they could obtain more than enough food to satisfy their need for survival.
Students ( aka informavores) use similar methods to make decisions on finding information in much the same was as our predecessors. We surf for information sources. We hunt down and consume data because we are learners! Gathering information is necessary to learn. Gregory Bateson describes the “scent” as “news of difference,” leading us to patches of useful and tasty information, which are often marked by novelty.
People, including some of my students, have a voracious appetite for novelty. This is the catalyst which drives them to seek new and different (novel) things. Some will expend an enormous amount of time and energy in search of this information. Of course, not all of your students have this desire for information, nor should you expect them to. It’s thrilling to see those who do get so excited about all of the new things they have found, and they develop an insatiable need to obtain more!
Our nervous system responds to our internal reward system when we experience learning. You may have experienced this as satisfaction after a meal or sex. Our brains are hardwired to make us feel good about obtaining information, which we have now translated into learning. Just as some people become addicted to food or sex, we (students and instructors) become addicted to information.
This is truly a rewarding experience for an instructor. I love seeing students make connections between their newly discovered information and concepts that we have discussed in class. “Now it all makes sense!” Sweet music to a teacher’s ears.
Challenge your students! Require them to go “outside the box” when looking for information. You may just be amazed as to how this assignment or a similar one will open up a whole new world for these individuals.
For a more complete explanation of how informavores track information, you can see Lea Winerman’s article on “Tracking the Scent of Information” at the American Psychological Association’s site by clicking here.