- intellectual humility / open-mindedness
- scholarship / research
- novelty-seeking / openness-to-experience
Fear/disgust/conventionality can inhibit curiosity, so courage/openness/boldness might help. Curiosity has something to do with reaction to novel/unknown: are you afraid of it, made uncomfortable by it, confused by it, or are you interested in it and want to know more?
Is there also a special skill involved in noticing the gaps in your knowledge? Knowing what you don’t know but might be able to learn?
Curiosity is akin to “interest” / “fascination” but is more probing: wanting to look behind the veil. To be curious about something includes being engaged by it, which is itself psychologically rewarding (e.g. antidote to boredom). A page-turner or binge-watch is motivated by a “I wonder what happens next” curiosity.
Related to “Openness to Experience” (one of the Big Five personality traits).
“Anxiety” can discourage curiosity. When you are anxious, you may try to reduce things to the known and manageable and to eliminate or distance the unknown and unpredictable.
If you identify yourself with your belief system, you may see new information that threatens that belief system as a threat. What can be done to put your beliefs outside of the boundaries of that-which-must-be-defended so that you can adapt to new information without feeling injured in the process? If you can integrate new information in a satisfying way, this can help motivate you to seek out additional new information; if that process is unpleasant, it can demotivate curiosity.
Virtues possibly in tension¶
- tact (e.g. if tact prevents you from asking probing questions)
- prudence (in the sense of “caution”): curiosity killed the cat
What about e.g. lurid curiosity (can’t turn away from a trainwreck, eager to hear of scandals, prying into other people’s private lives, peeping-tom-ism)?
How to acquire or strengthen it¶
Notes and links¶
- Character Lab curiosity playbook
- Cultivating Curiosity
- Master Virtues: Curiosity
- Paul Graham on curiosity being the key to thinking for yourself
- The Virtue of Curiosity: How Eagerness to Learn Fosters Learning, Creativity and Engagement
- The Five Dimensions of Curiosity and the Four Types of Curious People
- LW: Curiosity
- Embrace the Curious Life
Curiosity involves incorporating new things into one’s model of the world, which can take work, especially if the new things are especially novel, unusual, incongruous, etc. At one extreme they can necessitate a full “paradigm shift” with all of the upheaval that implies. So there’s a temptation to shut down curiosity, leave some stones unturned, from not wanting to confront this work. Imagine what would have to change if you got an answer to one of the Big Questions (e.g. is there a god, does free will exist, is the ego just an illusion, what is the meaning of life) and it wasn’t at all the answer you were expecting.
To the extent that our brains are engines of trying to reduce discrepancies between predictions and experience, curiosity can be one of the mechanisms: why is this bit that doesn’t fit my expectations the way it is? Fucking magnets, how do they work?
Maybe there’s some role for curiosity in getting us out of ideological bubbles. These bubbles exist in part to feed us data that confirms and cements our existing worldviews and ideologies, and to explain away data that threatens to disrupt those worldviews and ideologies. If you’re curious, on the other hand, you’ll seek out disruptive data. (The trouble is that so much “data” these days is sold in manipulative packaging that you have to be careful not to adjust your worldview to accommodate the most manipulative explanations rather than the most convincing data.)
- One of The VIA Institute’s "Character Strengths" (see their page)