That’s the question we asked our parents when we were little. Now that we are older, whether we are parents or teachers, it is our turn to embrace the natural curiosity of children — and the kid inside…
Let’s face it, sometimes we don’t know the answer — or we’re too busy or unmotivated to seize the opportunity to satisfy the learning moment inherent in curiosity. We try our best, understanding that curiosity is the fulcrum of learning.
But did you know that the benefits of curiosity are not limited to the conscious mind? For the kids within us from 1 to 100, curiosity has been linked with psychological, emotional, social, and even health benefits. Here are some doozies:
1. Curiosity is essential to survival. The predisposition to embrace novelty helps us remain hyper-aware and gain knowledge about our constantly changing environment, engaging the dopamine cycle and other neurotransmitters the kicks in when we discover something new.
2. Curiosity correlates with greater happiness. Studies have shown curiosity to be associated with an increase in positive emotions, reduced anxiety, more life satisfaction, and greater psychological well-being. It may be that happier people tend to be more curious, but since novelty gives us neuro-boosts, it seems likely that the relationship may be causal. Get curious and get happy!
3. Curiosity boosts performance. Studies reveal that curiosity leads to more enjoyment and participation in school, higher academic and athletic performance, as well as better learning, engagement, and work performance. Curiosity increases presence and attention and when we are more curious about and interested in what we are doing, it’s easier to participate and create high performance results.
4. Curiosity can expand empathy. When we have authentic curiosity about others, including people new to us, we become better able to understand the unique experiences of others that may be completely new to us. The next time you meet someone new, especially someone who is different from you, experiment with engaging with them on a personal level (respectfully, of course) and showing them that you are interested in what they have to say.
5. Curiosity strengthens relationships. One study asked strangers to pose and answer personal questions, a process scientists call “reciprocal self-disclosure.” They found that people were rated as warmer and more attractive if they showed real curiosity in the exchange (while other variables like the person’s social anxiety and their levels of positive and negative emotions did not affect the partner’s feelings of attraction and closeness). This implies that demonstrating curiosity towards someone is a great way to build your closeness with them.
6. Curiosity makes for better healthcare professionals. Research suggests that when doctors and nurses are genuinely curious about you and your insights, you’ll both report less frustration and make better decisions, ideally increasing the effectiveness of treatment. The next time you choose a doctor, make sure it’s an individual who is authentically curious about you and your life.
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