Curiosity Is Not Intrinsically Good

Posted on July 14, 2016

Why do people seek out information about an ex's new relationships, read negative Internet comments and do other things that will obviously be painful? Because humans have an inherent need to resolve uncertainty, according to a recent study in Psychological Science. The new research reveals that the need to know is so strong that people will seek to slake their curiosity even when it is clear the answer will hurt.

In a series of four experiments, behavioral scientists at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and the Wisconsin School of Business tested students' willingness to expose themselves to aversive stimuli in an effort to satisfy curiosity. For one trial, each participant was shown a pile of pens that the researcher claimed were from a previous experiment. The twist? Half of the pens would deliver an electric shock when clicked.

The drive to discover is deeply ingrained in humans, on par with the basic drives for food or sex, says Christopher Hsee of the University of Chicago, a co-author of the paper. Curiosity is often considered a good instinct—it can lead to new scientific advances, for instance—but sometimes such inquiry can backfire. “The insight that curiosity can drive you to do self-destructive things is a profound one,” says George Loewenstein, a professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University who has pioneered the scientific study of curiosity.


Source material from Scientific American


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