Understanding how curiosity works and its link to wellbeing
This week, I’ve been curious about curiosity.
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and American University have measured different types of curiosity and found that there are two distinct archetypes; hunters and busybodies.
Whereas the busybody type jumps from topic to topic and forms loosely connected knowledge networks, the hunter type connects closely related topics to form tightly clustered networks that fill in knowledge gaps. Curiosity occurs on a spectrum and most people practice both styles of curiosity, although may have tendencies towards one way or another.
By monitoring Wikipedia browsing habits, the research itself has taken a novel approach to the way that curiosity is measured (you can read all about that here). It’s findings have also identified a potential tool for improving education and overall well-being.
But curiosity is a two way street: consumption and curation. Consumption, or how we gather information, is the focus of the Penn/American research, but that’s only half the story. Once the information is collected, curiosity guides us into shaping it for our own satisfaction. In other words, it’s not just about how you go looking for things, but how you hold onto things for different purposes.
If you think about when you read a book and all the wonderful insights you glean. The feeling associated with finding a piece of information that resonates with you has a profound impact on wellbeing – I like to call aha moments – the emotional response when your understanding crystalizes and you discover a little bit more about yourself and the world around you.
But then how do you hold onto the insights from that book that really interest you? Your curiosity extends beyond the initial consumption of that information to curation. This could be for all kinds of reasons – to come back at a later date, to share with the world, to reference in something you are creating. You extend the emotional satisfaction from the aha moment by shaping that information into something that you can put your mark on, be it a memory, notes, or a well crafted tweet.
And while there’s no doubt of the positive impact of consuming and curating information, what then happens when you can’t retrieve that information? Your memory fails, you lose your notes, your tweet disappears so far down your timeline that it’s never seen again and your curiosity was all for nothing. There may be a different emotional response, one of frustration or fatigue, that then has a negative effect on wellbeing.
The good news is that by understanding the way in which we find information, and shape it for different purposes, we can design for it – create tools that actively stretch and strengthen the curiosity muscle. We can encourage people to find and manage their findings in a way that enables curiosity and allows it to continue to flow, benefiting all kinds of applications.
And when we do this, we’ll be able to see the true impact on wellbeing and emotional satisfaction.
Hunome is designed to speed up your sense of Ahas and let the multidimensional perspectives inspire us. At times you stumble across very surprising thought connections. This we call our assisted serendipity.