What makes us curious? Astrophysicist has the answer

One of the biggest questions regarding the structure of the human mind is what, exactly, predisposes humans to be curious.

“What I found, to my surprise — the number of researchers who focus specifically on curiosity is relatively small,” said Mario Livio, author of Why?: What Makes Us Curious.

In his research, the astrophysicist found delineations for a handful of different types of curiosity: perceptual, the feeling of surprise or an unexpected result; epistemic, the love of knowledge and research; specific, the need for very small pieces of information; and diversive, an attraction to novelty, gratification, or social interaction.

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“[Diversive curiosity] is the type of thing you see on people constantly looking at their smartphone,” said Livio. Despite the joke, Livio said that millennials are just as curious as other generations.

Curiosity itself is more developed in humans than any other animal. “Animals are curious too, but not in the same way, exactly. Humans are the only ones interested in the why question. Namely, they’re looking for causes… Animals are curious, but they’re not interested in unseen causes,” he said.

Livio also explained that curiosity is extremely important when it comes to pushing society forward. “I absolutely believe that we need more curiosity… we’re very often fearful of things we don’t know enough about, or don’t understand,” said Livios.

“There were of course entire periods of history, like the Medieval times, where there were strong attempts to suppress curiosity. But, even today, I think that we should really encourage curiosity… it is a very good remedy for fear,” he said.

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