Curiosity in children: Is it a good thing or bad thing?

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Curiosity may vey well be the main component to human exploration and discovery. But is curiosity in children a blessing or curse? Find out more here.

Many different noteworthy figures throughout history though very highly of importance of curiosity. Walt Disney, for example, once said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

Former first lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt, spoke fervently of curiosity as well. She went as far as to describe it as "the most useful gift."

While it's hard to debate the validity of these statements, new research has pointed out that the old adage, "curiosity killed the cat," may also worth its salt. So, as much as curiosity is a good thing, could it also be a bad thing?

There's no denying that curiosity is an inherent, and invaluable part of human nature. It's the primary motivation to constantly seek new information and answers. Without it, we'd fail to make in progress intellectually, spiritually, etc. Our incessant need to seek answers, and explore the world around us is what many refer to as an innate desire to close the "curiosity gap".

curiosity in children

How does the curiosity gap pertain to children? Moreover, can acknowledging the curiosity gap be a blessing or curse when it comes to raising children?

As new research has shown, exploiting this "curiosity gap" can actually lead to a healthier lifestyle and better choices. At the 2016 APA annual convention of the American Psychological Association in Denver, Colorado, a team of researchers unveiled that curiosity can be a highly effective way to entice people into making smarter and healthier lifestyle choices.

Study lead, Evan Polman, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing at University of Wisconsin-Madison, calls his latest study Using Curiosity to Increase the Choice of Should OptionsHere's how Dr. Polman describes his newest study and its findings:

"Our research shows that piquing people's curiosity can influence their choices by steering them away from tempting desires, like unhealthy foods or taking the elevator, and toward less tempting, but healthier options, such as buying more fresh produce or taking the stairs."

"Evidently, people really have a need for closure when something has piqued their curiosity. They want the information that fills the curiosity gap, and they will go to great lengths to get it."

"Our results suggest that using interventions based on curiosity gaps has the potential to increase participation in desired behaviors for which people often lack motivation. It also provides new evidence that curiosity-based interventions come at an incredibly small cost and could help steer people toward a variety of positive actions."

Curiosity can also lead to regrettable decisions and danger!

On the other side of the coin, there is a darker side to the curiosity gap. Your ever curious, inquiring mind may lead you to make decisions that can result in painful or unpleasant outcomes.

Another recent study found that people are often driven by an uncontrollable urge to act on their curious tendencies, even when it's not in their best interest. Thrill seeking is often fueled by this type of curiosity.

The April 2016 study on the darker side of curiosity, "The Pandora Effect: The Power and Peril of Curiosity,” was published in the journal Psychological Science. "The Pandora Effect” essentially describes doing regrettable things that are driven by inexorable curiosity. The term was coined by the researchers of this study.

Study author Bowen Ruan of the Wisconsin School of Business at the University of Wisconsin-Madison described their terminology in a statement, “Just as curiosity drove Pandora to open the box despite being warned of its pernicious contents, curiosity can lure humans—like you and me—to seek information with predictably ominous consequences.”

Learn the final verdict on curiosity: can it be used effectively to raise your kids? Or does it do more harm than good!

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Conclusion: curiosity can be beneficial and detrimental to your child.

Both of the aforementioned studies point out some of the pros and cons of the curiosity gap. Obviously, it's easy to see how these pros and cons can be implemented by parents and their parenting style. But which side of the spectrum does curiosity fall? Blessing or curse?

Well...both.

curiosity in children

It's all about checks and balances, and understanding how to filter our curiosity. Understanding that curiosity has a dark side could help you modify your behavior and curb potentially self-destructive pursuits driven by that natural urge to close the curiosity gap.

The previously mentioned research suggests that you can make better decisions if you stop and consider whether your decision making is being driven by curiosity. And, if closing the curiosity gap will have positive or negative outcomes.

There you have it, parents. Curiosity can be both a benefit and a detriment. However, you must understand that kids are naturally curious. In order to keep them on the brighter side of the curiosity gap, however, you have to teach them the basics of proper decision making, and how to use curiosity to their advantage. Don't nurture an overwhelming need to satisfy their curiosity with no regard for possible negative outcomes!

This post was based on an article published by Psychology Today

READ: 5 Ways to raise kids who’ll grow into capable adults

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