Curiosity Endnotes

About these endnotes

This is where we provide references and in-depth information about everything in the Curiosity playbook.


We honor and thank the scientists whose research inspired this Playbook. In particular, we thank Chris Hulleman for working with our designers and educators to bring Build Connections to classrooms everywhere. Any errors or omissions are ours.

Wanting to know more

Developmental psychologist Susan Engel (2011) defines curiosity as “the urge to know more.” (Engels, 2011, p. 627). Sometimes curiosity draws us to the unknown (Piaget, 1969; Kagan, 1972), and sometimes it draws us to learn more about a subject with which we’re already familiar (Renninger, 1992). Sometimes curiosity is experienced as joyful exploration (interest-type curiosity; Litman, 2008) and sometimes it feels like an itch to scratch (deprivation-type curiosity ; Litman & Jimerson, 2004).  Regardless, curiosity is a “hunger of the mind” for intellectual engagement (Cacioppo, Petty, Feinstein, & Jarvis, 1996; Von Stumm, Hell, & Chamorro-Premuzic, 2011).

I have no special talent…

Albert Einstein in a letter to Carl Seelig, his first biographer, in 1952.

…process it deeply

An interested reader focuses on the text’s deep meaning, whereas a bored reader just catches superficial aspects (Schiefele, 1991). For a full review of curiosity as the emotion of interest, and of how interest promotes learning, see Silvia, 2006.

spend more time learning about it.

In a study of adolescents, researchers found that the more interested students were in a topic, the more they persisted in finding out more, and the more they persisted, the more they learned (Ainley, Hidi, & Berndorff, 2002).

You remember it more easily

We remember more of what we are curious about; and we also have better memory for anything we stumble upon when in a state of high curiosity (Gruber, Gelman, & Ranganath, 2014). That is because memory-related regions of the brain are activated when people are curious (Kang, et al., 2009).

People who are more curious are happier

Adolescents who scored higher in trait-level curiosity on an adaptation of the Curiosity and Exploration Inventory-II (Kashdan, 2009) reported higher life satisfaction, positive affect, and even a greater sense of purpose in life and hope (Jovanovic & Brdaric, 2012).

better liked

In an investigation of one-on-one conversations, both online and in person, Huang and colleagues (2017) discovered a consistent relationship between question-asking, especially follow-up questions, and liking. Across three studies, people who asked more questions were better liked by their conversation partners—and, in one study in a speed-dating setting, they were more likely to agree to a second date.

encouraging curiosity in others

In an experimental study, Henderson and Moore (1980) found that children, especially those rated as having low curiosity, explored more toys made available to them when experimenters encouraged their curiosity, either by nonverbal behaviors (eye contact or smiles) or by verbal encouragement (asking leading questions or reinforcing children’s curiosity).

Build connections

Hulleman and colleagues (2009 and 2017) found that the more students made connections between what they are learning in school and their lives, the more they like what they are learning, the more they are motivated to learn it, and, if low-performing, the better grades they get.


Ainley, M., Hidi, S., & Berndorff, D. (2002). Interest, learning, and the psychological processes that mediate their relationship. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94(3), 545-561.

Cacioppo, J. T., Petty, R. E., Feinstein, J. A., & Jarvis, W. B. G. (1996). Dispositional differences in cognitive motivation: The life and times of individuals varying in need for cognition. Psychological Bulletin, 119(2), 197-253.

Einstein, A. (1952, March 11). Letter to Carl Seelig. Einstein Archives 39-013.

Engel, S. (2011). Children’s need to know: Curiosity in schools. Harvard Educational Review, 81(4), 625-645.

Grossnickle, E. M. (2016). Disentangling curiosity: Dimensionality, definitions, and distinctions from interest in educational contexts. Educational Psychology Review, 28(1), 23-60.

Gruber, M. J., Gelman, B. D., & Ranganath, C. (2014). States of curiosity modulate hippocampus-dependent learning via the dopaminergic circuit. Neuron, 84(2), 486-496.

Henderson, B. B., & Moore, S. G. (1980). Children’s responses to objects differing in novelty in relation to level of curiosity and adult behavior. Child Development, 51(2), 457–465.

Huang, K., Yeomans, M., Brooks, A. W., Minson, J., & Gino, F. (2017). It doesn’t hurt to ask: Question-asking increases liking. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 113(3), 430-452.

Hulleman, C. S., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (2009). Promoting interest and performance in high school science classes. Science, 326(5958), 1410-1412.

Hulleman, C. S., Kosovich, J. J., Barron, K. E., & Daniel, D. B. (2017). Making connections: Replicating and extending the utility value intervention in the classroom. Journal of Educational Psychology, 109(3), 387-404.

Jovanovic, V., & Brdaric, D. (2012). Did curiosity kill the cat? Evidence from subjective well-being in adolescents. Personality and Individual Differences, 52(3), 380-384.

Kagan, J. (1972). Motives and development. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 22(1), 51–66.

Kang, M. J., Hsu, M., Krajbich, I. M., Loewenstein, G., McClure, S. M., Wang, J. T. Y., & Camerer, C. F. (2009). The wick in the candle of learning: Epistemic curiosity activates reward circuitry and enhances memory. Psychological Science, 20(8), 963-973.

Kashdan, T. (2009). Curious? Discover the missing ingredient to a fulfilling life. New York: HarperCollins.

Kashdan, T. B., Gallagher, M. W., Silvia, P. J., Winterstein, B. P., Breen, W. E., Terhar, D. J., et al. (2009). The Curiosity and Exploration Inventory-II: Development, factor structure, and psychometrics. Journal of Research in Personality, 43, 987–998.

Litman, J. A. (2008). Interest and deprivation factors of epistemic curiosity. Personality and Individual Differences, 44(7), 1585-1595.

Litman, J. A., & Jimerson, T. L. (2004). The measurement of curiosity as a feeling of deprivation. Journal of Personality Assessment, 82(2), 147-157.

Piaget, J. (1969). The psychology of intelligence. New York: Littlefield, Adams.

Renninger, K. A. (1992). Individual interest and development: Implications for theory and practice. In K. A. Renninger, S. Hidi, & A. Krapp (Eds.), The role of interest in learning and development (pp. 361–396). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Schiefele, U. (2001). The role of interest in motivation and learning. In J.M. Collins & S. Messick (Eds.), Intelligence and personality: Bridging the gap in theory and measurement, (pp. 163-194). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Silvia, P. J. (2006). Exploring the psychology of interest. New York: Oxford University Press.

Von Stumm, S., Hell, B., & Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2011). The hungry mind: Intellectual curiosity is the third pillar of academic performance. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6(6), 574-588.