Curiosity and Interest: The Benefits of Thriving on Novelty and Challenge

Todd B. Kashdan and Paul J. Silvia

in The Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology

Second edition

Published in print July 2009 | ISBN: 9780195187243
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:
Curiosity and Interest: The Benefits of Thriving on Novelty and Challenge

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An imbalance exists between the role of curiosity as a motivational force in nearly all human endeavors and the lack of scientific attention given to the topic. In recent years, however, there has been a proliferation of concepts that capture the essence of curiosity—recognizing, seeking out, and showing a preference for the new. In this chapter, we combine this work to address the nature of curiosity, where it fits in the larger scheme of positive emotions, the advantages of being curious in social relationships, links between curiosity and elements of well-being, and how it has been used in interventions to improve people's quality of life. Our emphasis is on methodologically sophisticated findings that show how curiosity operates in the laboratory and everyday life, and how, under certain conditions, curiosity can be a profound source of strength or a liability. People who are regularly curious and willing to embrace the novelty, uncertainty, and challenges that are inevitable as we navigate the shoals of everyday life are at an advantage in creating a fulfilling existence compared with their less curious peers. Our brief review is designed to bring further attention to this neglected, underappreciated, human universal.

Keywords: curiosity; interest; meaning; motivation; positive emotions; well-being

Article.  5712 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology ; Clinical Psychology

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