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  • Writer's pictureRae Gateley, LCSW

Is Curiosity Good for You?

Updated: Nov 2, 2023

If curiosity killed the cat, what will it do to you?

When it comes to curiosity, there’s good news and bad news.

In his book, Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It, Ian Leslie describes the dual nature of curiosity: “Diversive curiosity is essential to an exploring mind; it opens our eyes to the new and undiscovered, encouraging us to seek out new experiences and meet new people. But unless it’s allowed to deepen and mature, it can become a futile waste of energy and time, dragging us from one object of attention to another without reaping insight from any. Unfettered curiosity is wonderful; unchanneled curiosity is not.”

There are three different types of curiosity identified by Leslie in his book.

Diversive curiosity, as mentioned in the quote above, is the itch to explore - to seek out new information, sensations, and experiences.

The second type of curiosity, epistemic, is a more disciplined, focused, and persistent effort to gain deeper understanding.

The third type of curiosity, empathic, seems to be a subtype or variety of epistemic curiosity. You are using your empathic curiosity when you make an effort to deeply understand another person’s point of view.

Curiosity is a very powerful force, and as such, it can either harm or enrich our lives, depending upon how it is managed. If indeed curiosity killed the cat, it must have been a feline version of diversive curiosity - an impulsive, undirected urge to see “what happens if…” To avoid the cat’s sad fate, use your uniquely human capacity to not only take in information from the environment, but to also do the hard work of developing a deeper understanding of that information. When diversive curiosity is combined with epistemic and empathic curiosity, the rewards definitely outweigh the risks. Benefits of a curious mind include greater enjoyment and satisfaction in learning, more confidence when facing problems, a greater sense of connection with other people and their ideas, and an increased awareness and openness to a bigger world beyond your own experience.

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