Curious about curiosity?

“It is so important to allow children to bloom and to be driven by their curiosity.”                                -May-Britt Moser, neuroscientist

 

Curiosity, that desire to know, may have been blamed for killing the cat but it can contribute to academic success. Did you know that recent studies have found that higher curiosity is associated with higher academic achievement?

Curious children are better able to grasp basic math and reading than their less curious comrades. Researchers at University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and the Center for Human Growth and Development (their finding published this year in Pediatric Research) have found that the relationship between a child’s curiosity and academic achievement was not related to a child’s gender or self-regulatory capacities. In addition, the more curious the child, the more likely he or she may perform better in school– regardless of economic background. In fact, the lead researcher in this study, Prachi Shah, said that “the association of curiosity with academic achievement is greater in children with low socioeconomic status.” Shah goes on to say that “promoting curiosity in children, especially those from environments of economic disadvantage may be an important, under-recognized way to address the achievement gap.”

Curiously enough, a different study published just this year in Journal of Child and Family Studies, found that teens who are curious also tend to be more self-compassionate. This makes sense. If a teen is open to exploring and appreciating new experiences, it follows that the teen may be more kind and accepting of his or her self.

Curiosity is the perfect fuel that drives us to seek and learn, innovate, and create. Curious children are more aware and open to trying things and failing, and learning from those mistakes. Curious kids explore, notice, make connections, and, as other studies suggest, grow up to be curious adults who are non-defensive, non-critical, emotionally expressive, and experience positive relationships with others.

Yet, we all have met people who seem to move through life with a low or empty curiosity fuel tank. Dr. Todd Kashdan, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at George Mason University, has studied curiosity for decades. He says that a lack of curiosity is a breeding ground for such things as discrimination, ignorance, and rigid conformity.

What specific steps can we take to further cultivate curiosity in our children—and ourselves—so that we can thrive and learn to the greatest extent possible? Well, that’s a post for another time. So, keep coming back. Meanwhile, stay curious!