“I have no special talents. I'm just extremely curious,”said Albert Einstein. The great physicist was modest and cunning, but curiosity really should not be underestimated. It helps to form positive habits and get rid of negative ones, develops creativity, and also turns every day into an exciting adventure in search of real information treasures. In this sense, the thirst for knowledge is not just a metaphor, but a real biochemical process taking place in our brain. Its result is a palpable desire to learn something new or to fill a specific semantic gap.
How interest is born
In the mid-2000s, psychologist Jordan Litman formulated the concept of two facets of curiosity. The first he called scarcity or D-curiosity (in the original English name D stands for Deprivation), it is formed when a gap in information makes us nervous. For example, you are watching a movie, but out of the corner of your eye you notice that a new message has arrived on your phone. You intolerably want to know who wrote what, it's hard for you to focus on the film and get rid of the thoughts of the smartphone from your head - you are curious, but at the same time anxious and uncomfortable.
We experience the same set of emotions when someone or something, such as a train, is late or when the boss unexpectedly calls into the office and does not warn about what the conversation will be about. That is why, in some cities, at metro stations, a scoreboard is installed with a countdown to the arrival of the train - passengers are much more comfortable knowing that it will arrive in half an hour than not knowing that it will be in 10 minutes.
In turn, I-curiosity (from the English. Interest - "interest") arises when we want to learn more about what we already know. It is positive, because initially there was no shortage of information - we do not want to fill the gap, but to expand the boundaries of knowledge. It is a pleasant, empowering feeling that unlocks an inner explorer in us, triggers creative thinking and helps us enter a state of flow - full focus on the subject of study, along with maximum productivity. Simply put, when we are curious, we are insanely interested.
How curiosity changes lives
Both types of curiosity are associated with the dopamine reward system, but in different ways. To satisfy D-curiosity, you need to get rid of it - look at the message on the phone, find out the agenda of the work meeting, wait for the train. Only after receiving an external answer, we will earn a reward - the release of the hormone of joy dopamine (the popularity of social networks is based on this mechanism: the more notifications we receive, the more often we check our accounts and the more imaginary rewards we get). I-curiosity satisfies itself - the process of cognition brings joy. This means that with the help of curiosity, we independently and independently of external factors can generate positive emotions. And together with them, change your life.
In a TED Talks talk, psychiatrist Jadson Brewer explains how curiosity can build awareness and break bad habits: “Mindfulness is built on a sincere interest in what is happening to us, to our body at this particular moment. It also implies a willingness to carefully consider your own experiences and destructive desires, instead of fighting them."
This is how it works in reality: you want a donut, eat it and feel satisfied. This is a standard chain of stimulus, reaction and reward (see food - eat - you get charged with fast energy). Our brain remembers this sequence and the next time it sees a donut, it insists on eating it. The more often we do the same thing, the stronger the habit - and the harder it becomes to break it.
Brewer proposes replacing the external reward (the contingent donut) with the internal reward we can get from the learning process. The next time you crave something sweet, activate I-curiosity - focus on the sensations and try to explore, decompose, describe, and even analyze them. In essence, this is the practice of mindfulness that helps you cope with anxiety and live a more fulfilling life: instead of fighting against negative stimuli and emotions, you can learn to catch them in the bud and abstract from them with curiosity.
How to develop curiosity
The life of an inquisitive person is filled with discoveries and opportunities. Curiosity gives food for thought and makes the brain work actively. It makes it easier to perceive new ideas, better understand the context of what is happening, inspires and motivates.
The degree of our curiosity is related to the amount of our knowledge. When we know practically nothing about the subject, it is difficult to show interest in it (therefore, when at the end of the speech the audience has no questions on the topic, we can assume that no one understood anything). When we know almost everything, we are no longer interested. The complete absence of the riddle is boring, and the high degree of uncertainty is anxiety. Curiosity is somewhere in between. To develop it, you need to learn a lot - and preferably in different ways.
Go to exhibitions, performances and watch quality films - get to know different cultures and learn more about how people lived at different times. Go to bookstores. When you google a question or topic, you fill a gap in specific knowledge and satisfy your interest within a given framework.
Go to a bookstore and wander between the shelves - most likely, you will soon be interested in some book on an unexpected topic that you have not shown interest in before. This is how I-curiosity is activated. For the same reason, it is worth periodically going beyond your social media feed - it is formed from your existing interests and rarely offers something new. Try sometimes the old-fashioned way to go directly to the sites.
Travel often and connect with people whose interests differ from yours. And don't be afraid to ask stupid questions - the more successful we become in our field, the harder it is for us to admit that we do not know something. With our fear, we close the path to development, and at the same time we deprive ourselves of the opportunity to feel the joy of learning something new. And don’t worry if you don’t find the answer to some question: sometimes the process of searching is enough for happiness.>