The Five Dimensions of Curiosity

Written by
Anne Brassier
Published on
March 15, 2019

How is that possible?

This question is central to the concept of curiosity. Humans are inherently curious creatures - it starts when we learn to cry for food and crawl to get places, and it continues when we're grown-ups wondering how the universe works.

Curiosity brings a range of benefits including encouraging us to explore and learn new things from the moment we're born. Studies have linked it to better relationships, reduced aggression and enhanced wellbeing. Plus it stimulates progress towards one’s goals.

What is curiosity?

We can be curious to learn new things and meet new people, and about how our signed playing card re-appears in the magician’s pocket... Is curiosity always pleasurable? Nope, not always. We might be curious as to why a date rejected us or how to solve that annoying Rubik’s cube.

A team from Barclays curious as to how a card appeared half way up a wall

Some answers to these questions come from the cutting edge science of researcher Todd Kashdan and his team. They synthesized years of research on curiosity to identify the following dimensions:

Joyous Exploration

This is about the sense of wonder. When we acquire fascinating new information that grows our knowledge, we feel joyous exploration. You get this, for example, when you discover the secret to a magic trick and learn how to perform it yourself.
You’ve also likely felt the feeling of joyous exploration when one of your burning science questions were answered, maybe something like “what are the effects if a black hole falls into a wormhole?” type of quantum physics question that left you with a curious itch after you finished watching Interstellar.

Deprivation Sensitivity

Aka “Need to Know” curiosity?. This is the drive to solve problems along with its frustrations. Think of that pesky Rubik’s Cube and difficult Sudoku puzzles…

Stress Tolerance

This dimension of curiosity entails the willingness to embrace the doubt or confusion associated with uncertain and mysterious things in life.

Social Curiosity

Speaks for itself: this is curiosity about other people. What do they like, what do they dislike, what’s their favorite music or food, and so on. Social Curiosity is the desire to know more about people and what makes them tick.

Thrill Seeking

This is the willingness to take different types of risks. Thrill Seeking includes the emotional “high” we get from these exciting, new experiences. This emotional energy can be channeled into reckless future behaviours, meaningful life pursuits, or both.

Of all the dimensions, Joyous Exploration and Stress Tolerance had the strongest associations with measures of well being. This makes sense because well being is not merely about enjoying our endeavors all the time. But rather about having the psychological resilience to deal with uncertainty in life during the tough times.

As Abracademy is a company wishing to spread more magic in the world, we celebrate how uncertainty can create some wonderful, amazing, extraordinary and, of course, magical moments.

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