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

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 science of curiosity: why we keep asking "why"

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

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

nesslabs.com

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Key Ideas

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

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.

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Curiosity leads us to generate alternatives
Curiosity leads us to generate alternatives

When our curiosity is triggered, we are less likely to fall prey to confirmation bias (looking for information that supports our beliefs rather than for evidence suggesting we are ...

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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Perceptual curiosity
Perceptual curiosity

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 adve...

Epistemic curiosity

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 other things like that.

The genetic component of curiosity

Most psychological traits, and curiosity is no exception, have a genetic component to them.

The fact that some people are much more curious than others largely has to do with their genetics. But, as in all cases, genetics is never the whole story.

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Growing Up

As we get educated and become adults, we get tied up in our accomplishments and careers, following the generally accepted ways of living and behaving in society. We become stuck in a sel...

Playfulness

Playfulness is the lesser-known and under-appreciated antidote to unhappiness, boredom, and stuckness of life.

Trumping Anxiety

Playfulness outcompetes worry and anxiety.

Most people find it hard to worry less, so the way out is to find something playful to do, a distraction or a hobby, or get into mindfulness meditation.

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The paradox of curiosity
The paradox of curiosity

Curiosity doesn’t seem to be tied to any specific reward.

It makes sense for organisms to seek food, water, sex, shelter, rest, wealth, or any of the other myriad nour...

Curiosity and evolution

From an evolutionary perspective, there’s good reason to keep looking, to be curious. Information helps us make better choices and adapt to a changing environment.

Curiosity as a probability algorithm

Scientists who study the mechanics of curiosity are finding that it is, at its core, a kind of probability algorithm—our brain’s continuous calculation of which path or action is likely to gain us the most knowledge in the least amount of time. Like the links on a Wikipedia page, curiosity builds upon itself, every question leading to the next. And as with a journey down the Wikipedia wormhole, where you start dictates where you might end up.

Curiosity is less about what you don’t know than about what you already do.

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Knowledge exists on a barometer
Continuously shifting depending on who you are talking to. Treating knowledge as concrete(a noun)  suggests there is a specific point at which what you know becomes an absolute trut...

Knowing more about a subject doesn’t necessarily mean that you are right. We need to be able to measure the quality of information we possess.

Knowing more about a subject doesn’t necessarily mean that you are right. We need to be able to measure the quality of information we possess.
Attentional Capital (AC)
AC=a measurement used to calculate how we arrive at a place of knowledge.
  • A high AC: you have obtained your information through focused and objective research and would be open to changing your position if presented with sufficient evidence.
  • A low AC: you reactively believe whatever comes across your news feed and hold onto your beliefs in a dogmatic and tribal manner.

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Learned Optimism in Psychology
Learned Optimism in Psychology

This is a concept that suggests that we can always change our attitude and behaviour, be aware of our thoughts and stop our negative self-talk.

Learned Optimism is a positi...

Pessimism Vs Optimism

Pessimism is defined as the anticipation of good or bad things to happen in the future, while optimism is generally considered the opposite. Optimism can be defined as the individual difference variable reflecting the extent of which we hold positive expectancies for the upcoming event.

The ways in which we think affects our health, well-being and success, even though the situations are the same.

Benefits of Optimism
  • A positive impact on many aspects of physical and mental health.
  • Provides motivation to work harder.
  • Greater career success in life.

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Pop Culture and The Fascination With Crime
Pop Culture and The Fascination With Crime
  • Several Top 20 podcasts, Netflix documentaries, books and TV shows point towards an obsession with crime stories that are based on reality.
  • The charismatic appeal of a murd...
The Psychology Of Danger

Things and people that are potentially threatening command attention. Our survival instincts form our fascination with the stories of true crime.

Upon hearing an incident of danger or disaster, our brain's part called the amygdala, that is responsible for emotions, memory and survival tactics is stimulated. It signals our frontal cortex region of the brain to evaluate and interpret the data, invoking the ‘fight or flight’ response.

Morbid Curiosity

As humans, we want to know the psychology of the bad people, who are also supposedly just as human as we are.

This creates a curiosity to know more about the deranged, criminal mind, and the other aspects of the scenario, like solving a jig-saw puzzle.

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Mindfulness

... is a collection of practices aimed at helping us to cultivate moment-to-moment awareness of ourselves and our environment.

Meditation sharpens your attention

Meditation helps to counter our tendency to stop paying attention to new information in our environment. Other studies have found that mindfulness meditation can reduce mind-wandering and improve attention.

Larger randomized controlled trials are still needed to understand how meditation might work with other treatments to help people manage attention-deficit disorders.

Consistent meditation

Long-term, consistent meditation mindfulness changes our ability to handle stress in a better, more sustainable way.

  • Practicing meditation reduces the inflammatory response in people exposed to psychological stressors.
  • Mindfulness practices help us to be less reactive to stressors and to recover better from stress when we experience it. 

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