Curiosity killed the cat. How did curiosity kill the cat? What was the cat curious about? What made it die? There are many questions that pique our curiosity. Why are we so curious about thing in the first place? This is a curious subject indeed. The definition for curiosity is “a strong desire to know or learn something” which means that the object of our curiosity is something that we still have no or little knowledge about, now that’s a really important point and you’ll know why in a bit.
Curiosity has it’s root in a human trait called neoteny, this strange term means “retention of juvenile characteristics” and comes from evolutionary theory. This means we as a species are more child-like than other mammals. By becoming a more child-like species, we became physically weaker but we have a much higher capacity to learn and absorb information. Even adult humans can adapt to new environments easily and adopt new ways of doing things unlike other adult mammals that would find it much harder and sometimes even impossible to adapt to a new environment. This gives us the ability to survive better than any other animal and in almost any environment.
As you see, curiosity plays a very important role in our brains’ learning process because when we’re interested, we retain more information. In a recent study conducted at the University of California, participants were given the answer to over 100 trivia questions, which they found to be either interesting or uninteresting. They were then tested on those questions and the results showed that participants recalled the interesting trivia significantly more than the uninteresting one.
The same study has also found that during the wait of getting the answer of the interesting, the brain produced and released more dopamine which helps regulate the sensation of pleasure and reward. By stimulating the reward system in the brain curiosity helps us memorize the things we are curious about more easily. This is perhaps why evolution chose to give us curiosity instead of more strength or more hair to keep us warm or a larger size.
By making us curious, evolution left us the hard-work of making ourselves stronger, faster and all the other good stuff, to figure out for ourselves; we didn’t disappoint either we did become stronger, faster and more powerful than any other animal. The device you’re using right now, the building you’re in or the street you’re standing, the plane flying above you or that car that’s speeding past you… all of them are products of curiosity, our curiosity.
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Written by: Osama Waheib