I’m going to start off by telling you something that should already be obvious.
Curiosity enhances learning ability
When you are curious about something, you are motivated to seek information, pay attention, and learn.
Curiosity is often far more powerful than other motivations. For example, the motivation to learn in order to pass a class or receive a certain letter grade is relatively weak by comparison.
Now I’m going to tell you something that will sound kind of ridiculous.
Curiosity enhances the ability to learn things that you’re not interested in
Being curious is more than a just a thought directed at one specific point of interest.
Curiosity is a state of mind.
If you have ever spent time waiting to hear news about something, you already have a sense of how powerful this can be.
Did I get the job? Did I get in? Will they call me back?
Your mind is like a sponge when you’re curious
During this specific time—between first becoming curious and later learning the answer—your mind is in a very receptive learning state. Not just receptive to the specific thing that sparked your curiosity, but to anything you experience.
Recent research suggests that this is caused by the functioning of Dopamine circuits in the brain. To put it in simple terms, your brain is really good at learning about things that are rewarding, and remembering how to get them in the future.
But it also happens to be the case that when your brain is getting ready to learn about something rewarding, it is also that much better at soaking up any other information you happen to come across.
This is your brain on curiosity.
There are plenty of easy ways to exploit this in your daily life
Find yourself putting off books or articles for later, even though they seem relevant to your career or daily life? Have a Netflix queue full of movies you “should” watch but just…haven’t?
There is probably a good reason why, and the reason is that you aren’t really motivated enough. If you went ahead and read or watched them, you probably wouldn’t really pay attention anyway.
This can change.
Have a list of things that you’ve been meaning to read? Go ahead and do it. Just be sure to save the ones you are most curious about for last.
Wondering what happened this week on your favorite TV show? Put off watching it for a while, and go learn something new in the meantime—you will learn it well, whether you really wanted to or not.