Want to Change for the Better? Get Curious

I've always been curious.  Maybe that's why I'm a journalist.  I drive my husband and son crazy when we see speeding ambulances.  I've even followed sirens.

But now it looks like it might be a good thing.  A new study has found that curiosity can change behavior for the better.

Researchers found that curiosity could potentially help people make smarter and healthier decisions, according to newswise.com. 

"Our research shows that piquing people's curiosity can influence their choices by steering them away from tempting desires, like unhealthy food or taking the elevator instead of the stairs, or even toward making less tempting choices, like buying more vegetables instead of the Haagen-Daz," study authors write.

They conducted four experiments designed to test how raising people's curiosity might affect their choices.  In each case, arousing it resulted in a noticeable behavior change.

The experiments were as simple as offering two kinds of fortune cookies, the regular kind or ones covered in chocolate and covered in sprinkles.  I'm not sure it was curiosity -- the chocolate-dipped cookie probably looked far more appetizing.  But some of the participants were told the plain cookie would tell them something personal the researchers already knew about them.

The ones who were told this chose the plain cookie 71% of the time.  The people told nothing chose the more delicious cookie 80% of the time.

It seems like common sense but scientists believe it accurately predicts how curiosity can lead to better things, like choosing healthier options when it comes to food. Who wouldn't be curious (and a little nervous) to find out what a researcher knows about you?

The deal is that things like headlines that say "You won't believe this" and other information that teases you without telling you more aim to exploit a "curiosity gap" by providing just enough information to make someone curious, but not satisfy him or her.

And we as humans have a need for closure when something piques our interest, say researchers.  They believe their evidence shows that curiosity can be used to entice people to engage in healthier behavior, to increase participation in desired behaviors for which they often lack motivation.

I'm still going to follow those sirens. 


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