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The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It

By Ian Leslie
  • Read in 16 minutes
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  • Contains 10 key ideas
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Curious by Ian Leslie

Curious is all about one of the most fundamental forces for our success as well as our perception of the world around us: our curiosity. The book offers a unique look into how curiosity works, what you can do to nurture it and what sorts of behaviors stifle it.


Key idea 1 of 10

Curiosity is caused by information gaps that we want to close.

A blinking ad on a website, a bizarre circumstance of a murder mystery or an apple falling from the tree: all these pique our curiosity. But why? What do these drastically different things have in common that captures our attention?

According to psychologist George Loewenstein, curiosity is a result of information gaps. Put simply, information gaps are missing pieces to a puzzle. When we realize that there is something we don’t know, we then suddenly really want to find out what it is.

For instance, if you’re watching a thriller, there might be a murder, i.e., a piece of information. However, you’re missing some crucial information to complete the picture: who committed the murder? This is the information gap, and we continue watching with the hope that this gap will soon be closed.

Storytellers of all sorts use the principle of information gaps all the time; in fact, a good story depends on it! They create information gaps, and then close them, only to open yet another, and then another; it’s how they keep us engaged in their stories, feverishly turning page after page.

But it’s not the mere absence of information that sparks curiosity. Curiosity can’t exist in a vacuum; we  must first have some knowledge about the subject. The gap exists only between something we already know and something we don’t yet know, but would like to find out.

For example, if someone tells you all about the riveting performance he saw at a classical concert, you can’t respond to this information if you know nothing about classical music. Thus, your curiosity remains uncaptured.

However, if he then tells you that this music also appeared in your favorite film and that the composer was born in the same city as you, then you might have enough relevant information to become curious.

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