Common phrases such as “curiosity killed the cat” – which, as Cambridge Dictionary explains, is to warn people against asking too many questions – have led some of us to see curiosity as a negative thing.
But there are many science-backed positives to curiosity, including its ability to increase empathy, strengthen relationships, and boost our knowledge. With this in mind, we’ll be exploring some of the benefits of being curious and how it can enhance your life.
As Albert Einstein famously said, “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when one contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality.”
11 benefits of being curious
1. Curiosity keeps the brain active and reduces the risk of cognitive decline
Research has revealed that curiosity is good for brain health.
Unlike being passive, studies have found that being curious and learning about new things encourages the brain to produce new neurons and create new neural pathways.
These processes are associated with boosting memory, language, thinking, attention, and reasoning skills; all of which can help to reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
2. Curiosity can strengthen relationships
Some research has suggested that curiosity may lead to stronger relationships.
This is because being curious about another person involves asking questions to find out more about them. When someone’s genuinely interested in what we have to say, it can encourage us to be more open, share more, and ask questions in return.
According to experts, this type of exchange can help to create intimacy and closeness, and may be an effective way to strengthen relationships.
For example, in this study where strangers asked each other personal questions, those who showed genuine curiosity in the other person were rated as warmer and more attractive.
Another study found that after engaging in both small talk and deep conversation, people who were more curious felt closer to those they spoke to, while the less curious people didn’t.
3. Curiosity may improve our ability to cope with difficult situations, such as rejection
Studies have linked curious behaviour with a greater ability to cope with and handle unwanted emotions, accept conflict, and cope with difficult situations, such as rejection.
This is largely due to the fact that when we aren’t curious, we rely on assumptions and past experiences to decide how we feel. But unfortunately, what we already know already doesn’t always serve us well in new situations.
Curious people, however, are more likely to gather all of the available information before coming to a conclusion.
4. Curiosity can help to relieve boredom
Studies have revealed that 63% of people experience boredom at least once over a 10-day period.
Boredom tends to occur when we overuse the logical, left side of our brain and neglect the right side of our brain, which deals with creativity and emotion. In practise, you may feel like you’re stuck in a routine, following the same old habits, or carrying out your day on autopilot mode.
Curiosity offers the ideal escape from boredom because it leads us to learn about, explore, and try new things; all of which sparks interest, enthusiasm, and forces us out of autopilot mode.
5. Being curious can increase positivity
Research has identified a link between being curious and feeling more positive.
For example, studies have found that being more curious is closely linked with greater life satisfaction and stronger overall mental wellbeing.
Of course, in some cases, this may be due to the fact that people who are already happier have a natural tendency to be more curious. However, since we know that trying new things boosts mood, it’s likely that the link works in both directions.
6. Curiosity can improve problem solving skills
Being curious is thought to improve problem solving skills because it encourages us to ask questions and be more resourceful.
Author and entrepreneur Seth Godin likened this to seeing situations in grey rather than black and white. Seeing things in grey is about questioning things before jumping to conclusions, taking the time to understand subtle details, and considering different sides of the story.
7. Curiosity may reduce aggression
Some research has suggested that being curious may improve people’s ability to handle their actions in emotionally charged situations.
For example, this study found that more curious people were less likely to be aggressive towards people who hurt their feelings than those who were less curious.
Other studies also concluded that being curious on a daily basis reduced a person’s likelihood to be aggressive, while lower curiosity levels were linked with an increased likelihood of aggression.
Experts suggest these findings could be due to the fact that curiosity encourages people to be more open-minded; which can foster more balanced relationships where people feel seen, heard, and mutually understood.
8. Curiosity can increase empathy
Being curious about other people can help us to be more empathetic because it exposes us to views and experiences that are different from our own.
Psychologist Carl Rogers described empathy as “seeing the world through the eyes of others, not seeing your world reflected in their eyes. To be truly empathetic and understand another person’s perspective, feelings, and motivations, you have to be curious about that person.”
9. Curiosity can lead to greater self-awareness
Self-awareness is about understanding who we are and why; for example, considering how past experiences have shaped us and taking complete responsibility for how we connect with and relate to other people.
Research has linked being self-aware with a range of benefits; including better communication and decision-making skills; increased happiness, confidence, and leadership skills; and a greater ability to regulate emotions.
Being curious about ourselves is an effective way to increase self-awareness because it encourages us to ask questions and reflect.
10. Being curious can increase knowledge and work performance
Since it drives us to ask more questions, explore new things, and search for deeper understandings, it’s no wonder that curiosity can increase our knowledge.
But curiosity doesn’t only expose us to more information, research has also found that a curious mindset makes learning more effective and enjoyable. This is because it makes us more likely to actively engage with and remember what we learn.
As a result, curiosity has been linked with improved learning, commitment, and performance at work, as well as increased academic achievement. Often, these factors mean that curious people are more likely to seek out new opportunities too.
11. Being curious may reduce anxiety
Research has identified a link between curiosity and reduced anxiety.
One reason for this is that being curious activates the same areas of the brain as when we accomplish something. It also stimulates the release of dopamine – the ‘feel good’ hormone – which studies suggest plays an important role in regulating anxiety.
Curiosity has also been found to prevent the brain from focusing on ‘worst-case scenarios’. For example, this study revealed that going after new knowledge made people less anxious, uncertain, defensive, and less reactive to stress.
How can I develop my curiosity?
When thinking about ways to develop your curiosity, a good place to start is to consider what that sparks your interest. For example, what topics have you always wanted to learn more about?
However, experts suggest that when it comes to curiosity, it can be beneficial to look beyond general interests and consider exploring things that take you outside of your comfort zone. For example, a topic that doesn’t come naturally to you, or that you’ve never been in contact with before – perhaps a culture or language that’s different from your own.
This type of curiosity in particular can lead to a number of the benefits mentioned above; including increased empathy, problem-solving skills, and strengthened relationships, because it exposes us to alternative views and ideas.
To start being more curious, you might like to construct a reading list on the topic you wish to explore, tune into an audiobook, attend different events like local art or music festivals, meditate on or journal your thoughts, join a club, or travel either locally or further afield.
Whatever way you decide to engage with your curiosity, the most important thing is to continually ask questions. Often it’s the ‘silly’ questions that can lead to new, unexpected knowledge.
Alternatively, if you’re unsure what you could do to spark your own curiosity, you might be interested in taking Britannia’s curiosity personality quiz. Your results will highlight potential areas of interest for you and suggest ways you could pursue them to spark and develop your curiosity.
Curiosity hasn’t always had a positive wrap, but as research has shown, there are many impressive benefits that can come from being curious.
Whether we use it to strengthen our ability to connect with others, increase our understanding of views that are different from our own, or to open up new opportunities, chances are we could all do with being a little more curious.
For further reading, head over to the healthy mind section of our website. Here you’ll find a variety of articles on topics such as personal development, positivity, and overcoming challenges.