Wanting to know more

Strength of mind

“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”

—Albert Einstein

Why does curiosity matter?

When you’re curious about something, you process it deeply, rather than superficially. You also voluntarily spend more time learning about things that spark your curiosity. As a result, you more readily remember what you learn. In general, people who are more curious are happier and better liked.

Pulse Check

Reflect on how you’ve engaged with the world this past week. How many of these things are true?

  • I got so absorbed in learning that I lost track of time.
  • I talked to someone who gave me a new idea or changed my mind.
  • I took the initiative to learn more about one of my interests.
  • When I didn’t know the answer to a question, I couldn’t rest until I figured it out.
  • I explored a completely new idea or topic—just for the fun of it.

How do I encourage curiosity in others?

Model it. Cheerfully admit that you don’t know what you don’t know: “I actually don’t know how to do that problem. Let’s look it up together!” However you enjoy exploring your personal interests—books, podcasts, documentaries—share what you like: “I listened to the most amazing story today. Let me tell you about it!”

Celebrate it. Praise question-asking: “What a great question! I love the ideas it’s sparking!” Show admiration for wrong answers: “No, that’s not right. Explain to me how you’re thinking about this!” Build on curiosity expressed as statements: “I bet that if we use all our pencils we can build a skyscraper!” “That’s cool, let’s see how we can do that!”

Enable it. Make room for curiosity: When planning an activity, factor in time for questions. Establish an end-of-day ritual to share one thing each person in the family learned that they didn’t know before. Replace close-ended questions (“Is oxygen a component of the air we breathe?”) with open-ended questions (“What is air made of?”).

About the Author

Angela Duckworth is the Founder and CEO of Character Lab. She is also the Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, faculty co-director of the Penn-Wharton Behavior Change for Good Initiative, and faculty co-director of Wharton People Analytics. Her first book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, is a #1 New York Times best seller.

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Videos about Curiosity

Jon Baron Talks About Curiosity and Actively Open-Minded Thinking

Dr. Jon Baron shares how actively open-minded thinking and curiosity can make a difference in your life.

This is Your Brain on Curiosity | Matthias Gruber | TEDxUCDavisSalon

Neuroscientist Matthias Gruber explains how stimulating curiosity makes the brain work better and improves memory.

Susan Engel—Highlights from Grit and Imagination Summit, 2016

Dr. Susan Engel explores the inherent curiosity in children—and how to further cultivate it.

The Case for Curiosity | Mario Livio | TEDxMidAtlantic 2012

Astrophysicist Mario Livio takes you on a curiosity journey that touches the stars, the brain, psychology labs, and Hollywood celebrities.

Character is more than just curiosity.

There are many other strengths of heart, mind, and will.