People often say, "curiosity killed the cat." It is true that being curious can lead one into dangerous situations. But on the other hand, many people find that the more curious they are about a topic, the easier it is to learn information about that topic, which means curiosity can contribute to better learning.
Scientists are now looking at people's brains to find how curiosity can help one learn things better.
Curiosity enhances our memory
Previous studies have found that being in a state of high curiosity can enhance people's memory for some interesting information and even improve their memory for other information.
This link between curiosity and learning can be seen in the brain. Curiosity leads to activation of several areas of the brain, which are associated with learning.
Curiosity and fear
Curiosity is a desire for more information. When people are curious, brain systems linked with wanting to receive external rewards (like money or food) will be activated.
In some cases, people can be curious and afraid simultaneously. Curiosity can override the fear of exploring new things. And fear can also be part of the excitement of curiosity.
Curiosity and personality type
It seems that some people tend to be more curious than others, but why?
Scientists suggest that maybe people are all similarly curious. People who are more curious about specific things or situations are driven by "curiosity types," including epistemic curiosity and social curiosity:
—Epistemic curiosity describes a person's desire to acquire new information such as facts, concepts or ideas, and bridge any gaps in their knowledge.
—Social curiosity describes an individual's fascination and fixation on how other people think, act and feel, which can subsequently affect how they deal with the interpersonal world.
Scientists have found that epistemic curiosity may be related to an important area in the brain, known as the fornix. It is an important brain structure that connects the hippocampus (an important brain hub for memory) and brain areas related to learning, information seeking and exploration.
The findings show that, the more curious people are, the better the brain can do in learning, information seeking and exploration.
How to harness curiosity
In order to harness curiosity, people should strive to create learning environments that are good for exploration of ideas and information searching. Gaining knowledge in this way can be more efficient than just reading textbooks.
And this is not only true for children. Adults can also gain a more fulfilling life by continuously stimulating curiosity.