Intrinsic motivation refers to a mechanism pushing individuals to select and engage in activities for their own sake because they are inherently interesting (in opposition to extrinsic motivation, which refers to doing something because it leads to a separable outcome).
A key idea of recent approaches to intrinsic motivation is that learning progress in sensorimotor activities can generate intrinsic rewards in and for itself, and drive such spontaneous exploration (Gottlieb et al., 2013).
Learning progress refers to the infant’s improvement of his predictions or control over activity they practice, which can also be described as reduction of uncertainty (Friston et al., 2012).
Exploatory behavior can be defined as the choice of actions with the goal of obtaining information. (Gorrlieb 2013)
While information seeking is often geared toward uncertainty reduction, the motivations behind this process can be diverse and derive from extrinsic or intrinsic factors.
In extrinsically motivated contexts, information gathering is a means to an end – i.e., it is used to maximize the agent’s progress toward a separate goal. Exploratoy behavior allows the child to discover the best strategy for achieving a gaol.
Curiosity driven exploratory actions are distinct from goal directed motor acts in that their primary goal is to obtain new and interesting information, and not to effect a change in the enviromnent or achieve a specific goal.
The difference between exploratory hand action to discover and exploit the properties of objects, which is distinct from learning to take remove the lid of a container.
Intrinsic motivation drives curiosity or interest motivated exploratory behavior.
."The fact that animals, and particularly humans, seem avidly to seek out information without an apparent ulterior motive suggests that the brain generates intrinsic rewards that assign value to information, and raises complex questions regarding the benefits and computations of such rewards." Gottlieb 2013
"To explain such behaviors and the high degree of motivation associated with them, it seems necessary to assume that the brain generates intrinsic rewards related to learning or acquiring information (Berlyne 1960).
Some support for this idea comes from the observation that the dopaminergic system, the brain’s chief reward system, is sensitive to intrinsic rewards (Redgrave, Gurney et al. 2008), responds to anticipated information about rewards in monkeys (Bromberg-Martin and Hikosaka 2009) and is activated by paradigms that induce curiosity in humans (Kang, Hsu et al. 2009; Jepma, Verdonschot et al. 2012)."
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Gottlieb, J., Oudeyer, P.-Y., Lopes, M., & Baranes, A. (2013). Information seeking, curiosity and attention: computational and neural mechanisms. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 17(11), 585–593. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2013.09.001
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Oudeyer, P.-Y., & Kaplan, F. (2007). What is Intrinsic Motivation? A Typology of Computational Approaches. Frontiers in Neurorobotics, 1, 6. http://doi.org/10.3389/neuro.12.006.2007
Kidd, C., & Hayden, B. Y. (2015). The psychology and neuroscience of curiosity. Neuron, 88(3), 449–460. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2015.09.010