The five dimensions of curiosity

by Madelein
The five dimensions of curiosity

Late last year, the Harvard Business Review launched an article collection of research with the spotlight on curiosity. In Journal 4 of FLOORS in Africa magazine http://tiny.cc/wpc68y, we covered The Business Case for Curiosity by Francesca Gino, which delved into research that shows curiosity leads to higher-performing, more adaptable firms. In this edition, we discuss The Five Dimensions of Curiosity by Todd B Kashdan, David J Disabato, Fallon R Goodman and Carl Naughton.

Creativity increases perseverance, or grit: Merely describing a day when you felt curious has been shown to boost mental and physical energy by 20% more than recounting a time of profound happiness. In addition, curiosity propels us toward deeper engagement, superior performance, and more meaningful goals. Psychology students who felt more curious than others during their first class enjoyed lectures more, obtained higher final grades and subsequently enrolled in more courses in the discipline.

Since the 1950s, psychologists have offered competing theories about what makes one person more curious than another. Rather than regard curiosity as a single trait, we can now break it down into five distinct dimensions. Instead of asking, “How curious are you?” we can ask, “How are you curious?”

How are you curious?
Click here http://tiny.cc/makw9y to complete the questionnaire on our website to find out how you are curios.

In the 1950s, Daniel Berlyne was one of the first psychologists to offer a comprehensive model of curiosity. He argued that we all seek the sweet spot between two deeply uncomfortable states: understimulation (coping with tasks, people or situations that lack sufficient novelty, complexity, uncertainty or conflict) and overstimulation. To that end we use either, what Berlyne called “diversive curiosity” (as when a bored person searches for something – anything – to boost arousal) or “specific curiosity” (as when a hyperstimulated person tries to understand what’s happening in order to reduce arousal to a more manageable level).

In 1994, George Loewenstein of Carnegie Mellon University built on Berlyne’s insights by proposing the “information gap” theory. He posited that people become curious upon realising that they lack desired knowledge; this creates an aversive feeling of uncertainty, which compels them to uncover the missing information.

Other studies discovered that we use curiosity, not just to avoid discomfort, but to generate positive experiences, and these delved into social curiosity, or people’s interest in how other individuals think, feel and behave.

The five-dimensional model
The authors synthesised this information and other important research to create a five-dimensional model of curiosity:

  1. Deprivation sensitivity – recognising a gap in knowledge, the filling of which offers relief. This type of curiosity doesn’t necessarily feel good, but people who experience it work relentlessly to solve problems.
  2. Joyous exploration – being consumed with wonder about the fascinating features of the world. This is a pleasurable state; people in it seem to possess a joie de vivre.
  3. Social curiosity – talking, listening and observing others to learn what they are thinking and doing. Human beings are inherently social animals, and the most effective and efficient way to determine whether someone is friend or foe is to gain information.
  4. Stress tolerance – a willingness to accept and even harness the anxiety associated with novelty. People lacking this ability see information gaps, experience wonder and are interested in others but are unlikely to step forward and explore.
  5. Thrill seeking – being willing to take physical, social and financial risks to acquire varied, complex and intense experiences. For people with this capacity, the anxiety of confronting novelty is something to be amplified, not reduced.

The authors tested this model by conducting surveys to discover which dimensions lead to the best outcomes and generate particular benefits. For instance, joyous exploration has the strongest link with the experience of intense positive emotions. Stress tolerance has the strongest link with satisfying the need to feel competent, autonomous and that one belongs. Social curiosity has the strongest link with being a kind, generous and modest person.

Be sure to take the test on our website to find out how you fit into the five-dimensional curiosity model!

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to www.hbr.org for some of the information contained in this article.

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