Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Killing Curiosity

"...[W]e have devalued curiosity, putting the bulk of our energy -- as individuals, communities, nations -- into anxiety avoidance...That is to say, we need to cultivate curiosity."

Tom Jacobs, "Curiosity: The Killer Catalyst," Miller-McCune, November-December 2009, review of Curiosity by Todd Kashdan.

I'm sorry -- I don't feel curious after reading this review. Maybe it's the review, maybe the book, maybe both. The central balancing act of anxiety versus curiosity doesn't ring true or complete. Lack of curiosity frequently is a function of passivity, itself a product of various oppressions, stultifying routines,lack of alternatives and openness. Anxiety avoidance is certainly in the mix but there is a lot more to be said.

Should I be surprised that our collective drug of choice, dopamine, makes a showing in this story. Get curious, release the dopamine, feel good, get more curious.

I love the policy implications. Don't scare people (induce anxiety) about things like the flu. "Presenting the information as something new and interesting -- but not necessarily alarming -- could be far more effective in actually influencing behavior." Are you kidding? Curiosity is not what made me get a shot.

And the educational breakthroughs: "He envisions a less-structured educational environment in which students read books that actually engage them..." About time for a little choice!

In my lexicon of admiration, saying someone is "curious" is a high form of praise. I'm glad someone is writing about it. I wish this review had made me more curious about getting the book. And I'm not feeling anxious.

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