What causes curiosity

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

What causes curiosity

Some of us are known for their love for learning and for exploring new things. Research has found that curious people have a higher chance of living a happier life since their need for knowledge usually lead them to more rewards on the longer term.

But why would someone keep asking you about your salary?
Why would someone try to dig into your personal life to get more information about you?
Why would someone keep asking you personal questions until you feel uncomfortable?

The answer to all of these questions lies in one thing, the person’s desire to satisfy some of his emotional unmet needs!!!

Curiosity and the unmet need

Both Joe and Sam finished college in 2004. Because Sam had to work in another city they didn’t manage to meet again until 2009. During these years Joe was having big problems in achieving any success in his career and he was really depressed because of the fact that most of his colleagues got promoted while he didn’t.

When Joe met Sam he kept asking him detailed questions about his job including the famous "how much money do you earn" question.

Why was Joe curious to know more about Sam’s Job?? Actually Joe wasn’t interested in knowing what Sam does as much as he was interested in proving to himself that he is still doing well in his career.

Because Joe was not sure about the decisions he made in his career path he needed external reassurance and the only way to get that reassurance is to become curious about what other people did in their careers.

The need to know

But why would someone stop by an accident and keep watching until he knows what happened? What causes this kind of curiosity?

There are lots of reasons for this behaviour but one of the most famous reasons is that some people like to see others in trouble in order to feel good about themselves even if they have empathy for the person who had the accident!!

Sometimes we like to compare ourselves to those who are less fortunate than us because that makes us feel Good about ourselves. This comparison might not happen in a direct way but it could appear in many forms like the stopping by the accident example i just mentioned.

Some people might ask you questions about your personal life in order to compare themselves to you and see whether they have achieved any success or not (see How to stop comparing yourself to others).

Others may ask you personal questions if they believed that your answer might provide some kind of benefit to them in their lives. For example if someone knows that you are successful he might keep asking you questions in order to know one thing "How did you do it"!!

In short, people ask a lot when they have a need to know and this need is usually developed because of another unmet need that this person didn't satisfy yet.

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