What is it that really drives our curiosity?

Curiosity has several kinds or flavors, and they are not driven by the same things. There is something that has been dubbed perceptual curiosity and epistemic curiosity.

Curiosity is a fundamental human trait. Everyone is curious, but the object and degree of that curiosity is different depending on the person and the situation. 

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The 'Why' Behind Asking Why: The Science of Curiosity

knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu

Perceptual curiosity

That’s the curiosity we feel when something surprises us or when something doesn’t quite agree with what we know or think we know.

  • That is felt as an unpleasant state, as an adversity state. 
  • It’s a bit like an itch that we need to scratch.
  • That’s why we try to find out the information in order to relieve that type of curiosity.

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  • This is a pleasurable state associated with an anticipation of reward.
  • That’s our level of knowledge.
  • That’s what drives all scientific research.
  • It drives many artworks.
  • It drives education and things like that.

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There are two things to remember:

  1. When we do scientific research, we try to find answers to questions where we don’t know the answers yet but you cannot find those answers on the internet or Wikipedia.
  2. What the internet allows us to do is to satisfy what has been dubbed specific curiosity when we want to know a very particular detail, like, who wrote this or that book or what was the name of the actor in that film? The digital age allows you to find the answer very quickly. That’s actually good because you don’t want to spend all your time trying to answer a question like that.

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Mario Livio

There are some people who have the feeling that because we have information literally at our fingertips, maybe we’re becoming less curious. But that’s not true.

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Kids are more curious in terms of diversity than perceptual curiosity.

But in terms of epistemic curiosity, adults are as curious. 

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MARIO LIVIO

Different people are curious about different things, and the level of intensity of their curiosity may be different.

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