I have to admit, I am one of those people who turns to Google whenever I become sick. Coincidentally I became sick last week and once again used ‘ye old faithful Dr. Google’ to research my symptoms.
Runny nose. Check.
Sore throat. Check.
Chesty cough. Check.
Hot and cold flushes. Check.
Great, the internet says I have cancer and might have to get my leg amputated.
Using Google to research your illness is a very bad idea and I do not recommend it. But as a naturally inquisitive human being, curiosity gets the better of me and I constantly find myself aimlessly scrolling through a mountain of Wikipedia articles until all hours of the morning.
But not always does curiosity lead us in the wrong direction. Curiosity can lead to wonderful things and being a naturally curious person has its benefits. Curiosity increases our desire to research and learn new things and is an important part of the learning process. Okay so maybe Wikipedia isn’t the most reliable research source, but in my efforts to self-diagnose what turned out to be your average cold, I did actually learn some pretty valuable information (the main thing being, do not use the internet to research your cold and flu symptoms).
One’s eagerness to learn new things is often driven by curiosity and a burning desire to actively seek out new information (Stenger, 2014). A series of experiments conducted by researchers at the University of California revealed that changes occur in the brain when humans are particularly curious about learning certain information. When one takes particular interest in a certain topic, it is much more likely that the information learnt will be retained by the brain (Stenger, 2014). Sparking one’s curiosity also leads to greater activity in the “pleasure region” of the brain, releasing “feel-good chemicals” called dopamine (Stenger, 2014).
This shows a direct link between research and curiosity and how learning can be much more valuable through discovering information that one takes great interest in.
So long story short, if you’re particularly curious to know what baby dolphins look like at 3 in the morning, turn to google images and give your brain a bit of satisfaction.
Stenger, M 2014, ‘Why Curiosity Enhances Learning’, Edutopia, 5 March 2016