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Why Are Humans So Curious?

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Why Are Humans So Curious?

Curiosity is a hallmark of the human experience. But why?

Live Science,

5 min read
3 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Curiosity killed the cat, and it has killed quite a few humans, too.

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Humans have long celebrated their penchant for exploration and novel innovations. As the late British author Ken Robinson said, “Curiosity is the engine of achievement.” Canadian ice-hockey goaltender Maxime Lagacé goes a step beyond, suggesting that “curiosity and questions will get you further than confidence and answers.” What he fails to mention is that “further” sometimes means “off the edge of a cliff.” Humans are curious, and curiosity has served them well, but according to this Live Science article by journalist Grant Currin, it also has probably led to a lot of death and destruction. 


Curiosity is hard to define, but it’s a characteristic ingrained in the human experience.

Early psychologist William James defined curiosity as “the impulse toward better cognition,” and Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov described it as the “what-is-it?” reflex. Though various definitions for curiosity exist, University of Manchester lecturer Katherine Twomey says, “the general consensus is [that curiosity is] some means of information gathering.”

Scientists have identified different types of curiosity. Perceptual curiosity describes animals’ and humans’ tendency to explore and develop an interest in new things, before they lose interest again over time. Epistemic curiosity – which only humans demonstrate...

About the Author

Grant Currin is a science journalist whose work has appeared in National Geographic, Scientific American, WIRED and Curiosity Daily.

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