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The science of curiosity: why we keep asking "why"

https://nesslabs.com/science-of-curiosity

nesslabs.com

The science of curiosity: why we keep asking "why"
Children have an incredibly inquisitive mind. But it seems that as adults we lose our curiosity. Whats the science of curiosity behind it?

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Albert Einstein

"It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education. "

Albert Einstein

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Curiosity declines with age

Curiosity declines with age

Children are extremely curious. They keep asking, "why?" and explore new things just because they want to know.

But research shows that during the schooling years, curiosity steadily declines, and as adults, we fall into fixed and convenient thought patterns.

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The mechanics of curiosity

Research around curiosity found that children at age 5 scored 98% on a creativity test. When the same children took the test at age 10, only 30% scored well on the test. By age 15, only 12% of the same children did well. Less than 2% of adults are defined as creative based on their answer to this standardised test.

Science suggests this decrease in curiosity could be caused when we feel there's no gap between what we know and what we want to know, so we just stop being curious.

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Benefits of curiosity

  • Curiosity keeps you young. Those that maintain a sense of wonder throughout life live longer.
  • Curiosity helps you learn. Curiosity enables you to remember new information.
  • Curiosity encourages better relationships. Being really interested in other people helps build strong relationships.

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How to cultivate curiosity

  • Ask questions: Randomly ask yourself why? and how?
  • Read outside your field of interest.
  • Be interested in people. Choose someone you haven't seen in a while, and invite them for coffee. Make it a goal to learn as much as possible about their interests.
  • Practice talking less and listening more.
  • Immerse yourself in a topic. Read lots of articles, books, and research papers.
  • Write about this topic.
  • Carry a notebook. It will make it easier to remember topics you are curious about.
  • Learn about yourself. Explore your feelings, your goals, and even your family history.
  • Slow down. Let your mind wander and allow questions to form.
  • Hang out with a child, as this is one of the best reminders of our potential for curiosity.

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Curiosity leads us to generate alternatives

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Curiosity and innovation

Encouraging people to be curious generates workplace improvements.

When we are curious, we view tough situations more creatively. Studies have found that curiosity is associated with less defensive reactions to stress and less aggressive reactions to provocation.

Reduced group conflict

Curiosity encourages members of a group to put themselves in one another’s shoes and take an interest in one another’s ideas rather than focus only on their own perspective.

Thus, conflicts are less heated, and groups achieve better results.

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Curiosity

Curiosity

It is the recognition, pursuit, and desire to explore novel, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous events.

The 5 dimensions that define curiosity

  • Joyous exploration: I view challenging situations as an opportunity to grow and learn.
  • Deprivation sensitivity: I like to try to solve problems that puzzle me.
  • Stress tolerance: The smallest doubt can stop me from seeking out new experiences.
  • Social curiosity: Social curiosity: I like to learn about the habits of others. I like finding out why people behave the way they do.
  • Thrill-seeking: The anxiety of doing something new makes me feel excited and alive. Risk-taking is exciting to me.

4 types of "curious" people

  1. The Fascinated – they score high on all dimensions of curiosity, particularly joyous exploration.
  2. Problem Solvers – score high on deprivation sensitivity, and are midrange for other dimensions.
  3. Empathizers – score high on social curiosity, midrange on other dimensions and much lower on stress tolerance and thrill-seeking.
  4. Avoiders – score low on all dimensions, particularly stress tolerance.

Describing wonder

Wonder is said to be a childish emotion. However, as adults, we experience it when gaping at something unexpectedly spectacular.

Adam Smith, an 18th-century moral philosopher, describes wond...

Bodily symptoms

The bodily symptoms of this strange appearance point to three dimensions:

  • Sensory: The marvelous things take hold of our senses - we stare and widen our eyes.
  • Cognitive: We are perplexed because we don't have a past experience to understand them. It leads to a suspension of breath, similar to when we are startled.
  • Spiritual: We look upwards in veneration, which makes our heart swell.

The scale of wonder

At the mild end of this emotion, we talk about things being marvelous. More intense emotions might be described as astonishing. The extreme of this experiences is met with expressions of awe.