The power of curiosity

Curiosity is a powerful thing. It motivates people to learn. It inspires the hunt for information, leading to better decisions. It’s been shown to improve performance. A curious mind remembers more.

(Look at the bottom of this article for the research behind these statements. When else today will you have the chance to read about dopaminergic circuits?)

Curiosity is something we want to increase as educators, leaders, citizens, parents, etc. So how do we help people to be more curious? Curiosity is an emotion, so we need to rephrase that question. How do we help people to feel more curious? Specifically, how do we help people feel more curious about what we want them to be curious about?

I began thinking about curiosity generally as a part of my work to get people thinking about how we can change what we do to help others take action. Emotions are a key element in our “aim for action” model. I’ve also been thinking about it in the context of our fall series, Design Learning Spaces for Belonging. In their session on racial equity, Roo Ramos invited us to be curious about creating equitable spaces as acts of joy. In her session on accessibility on October 27, Elizabeth Ralston will create a space in which we can be curious about ability and disability. (A few spots are still available.) A healthy dose of curiosity in each other and our own ability to shift how we show up will lead to more equity in the world.

It is not surprising that curiosity is the link to learning, memory, and performance since it is an emotion. We know that emotions are the door to motivation. One of my favorite articles, “Change or Die”, speaks to the power of emotions in behavior change. Behavior scientist BJ Fogg teaches us that people are motivated sensation (pleasure/pain), anticipation (hope/fear), and belonging (social acceptance/rejection). You can pique curiosity by a moment of surprise (pleasure), a gap in a story (anticipation), or a connection between the information and someone in the room (social acceptance).

Feeling more curious—and inviting that feeling in others—seems like an important goal right now. Luckily we can turn to what we already know about good teaching and learning to find our next steps. Start with “them,” whoever they are. Understand what they care about and how your content is relevant to them. Ask better questions. Listen carefully.

Your investment in curiosity isn’t a superficial act but a commitment to better learning, decision making, memory, and movement forward. What could be more joyful than that?

Some resource on curiosity

Fall series continues on October 27

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Published by Nancy

I work at the intersection of learning, nonprofits, and leadership. I am a teacher, instructional designer, and nonprofit person who has worn every hat possible. I regular write, speak, and consult on learning strategy, design, and leadership.

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