I love the moment of discovery, the moment of pleasant surprise when you find something new. There is much to be said for going through life with a perennially curious outlook. Life is an adventure and there is always something interesting to discover, to experience. Curiosity is my word for 2021. It is not an attribute that is new to me and not something I need to work at as such, more it is an attribute I want to celebrate, maybe just give some conscious reflection to. I have posted once before on curiosity. It is a remarkable attribute.
Curiosity may play a substantial role in maintaining cognitive functioning, physical health and overall well being as we age, (Sakaki, Yagi, & Murayama, May 2018). If curiosity helps maintain cognitive function, physical and mental well being, than it makes sense that we take some time to indulge and encourage our curiosity.
There have been significant studies looking at the health benefits of positive emotions like curiosity, with one study finding that a curious person had a 57% decrease in the likelihood of being diagnosed with hypertension, (Richman, et al., 2005). In fact, there appear to be a few studies claiming health benefits for being curious.
Life is never boring when you are curious. You can always find something to be curious about. The life in your backyard, recipes for better health, the origins of the universe, the history of pandemics. I don’t know, what ever takes your fancy.
Curiosity seems ubiquitous with travel and learning. It is curiosity that drives us on to the next place, the next question. Some of our best discoveries while travelling have been made by giving in to curiosity, taking the turn off the highway or visiting that quiet out of the way town off the main tourist trail. Curiosity feeds the broth of creativity and our ability to meet challenges as they spring up. It drives progress. It is a vice or virtue to be indulged.
Could curiosity be the cure to misinformation and polarisation? Curiosity is not about what you know, but what you can learn. Not about arguing a point but about understanding someone else’s point of view, asking why they hold a particular belief and asking about the evidence. It is also what we should ask ourselves when we feel ourselves becoming locked into a particular way of thinking. Always, always ask why and always ask with genuine, open curiosity. Curiosity is about learning, not argument.
Curiosity leaves us flexible, ready to modify our behaviour based on the available evidence. But if we are not curious and open to begin with we may never see the information that could alter our thinking and decision making for the better.
Society as a whole seems to be losing its curiosity, instead becoming locked into polarised opinion and with it we are losing our flexibility, our ability to innovate and problem solve. Fear seems to be associated with a lack of curiosity, when did we become so fearful and limited in our thinking. Maybe it is just me, anyway curiosity is my word of the year. I have always been incurably curious, I find the world and life exciting because there is always something to be curious about. Libraries are the sanctuary of the incurably curious, guess that is why I ended up working where I do.
I also have a strong suspicion that curiosity also feeds empathy, if we are curious about another’s experience don’t we also learn to empathise with that experience, that point of view. Nothing really happens in a vacuum, the world is full of complex interconnections our curiosity can help us understand those complexities and interconnections and again makes us better able to adapt and rise to the challenge of complex changing environments. Curiosity helps us understand the divergent views and bewildering responses that populate our world. We don’t have to agree with each other but I think we do have to be curious about each other and always be asking; why?
Okay so that has been a bit of a rambling post but what do you think? Is curiosity a crucial attribute for you? Do you think curiosity could be a cure to misinformation and polarisation?
Richman, L. S., Kubzansky, L., Maselko, J., Kawachi, I., Choo, P., & Bauer, M. (2005, July). Positive emotion and health: Going beyond the negative. Health Psychology, 24(4).
Sakaki, M., Yagi, A., & Murayama, K. (May 2018). Curiosity in old age: A possible key to achieving adaptive aging. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 88, 106-116. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2018.03.007