Curious George? As a child, I loved that mischief-making little monkey, and the curious streak that led to his charming misadventures. I admire curiosity, and individuals who act on it.

Of course, we all know that it poses problems if taken to an extreme. But doesn’t this particular trait offer advantages that offset the potential downside?

I think of curiosity as the insatiable desire to learn. It fuels the pursuit of new activities. It encourages experimentation and innovation.

And doesn’t curiosity hedge against boredom?

Personally, I’m rarely bored. In fact, I could do with greater aptitude in the Beauty of Boredom department.

I’m curious about almost everything, which keeps me constantly chasing after ideas and understanding. I’m less inclined to be curious about solving mysteries, and more likely to pursue puzzles to do with people – what motivates them, what inspires them, what eases their struggles, how best to reach them with the right words or images.

But the underlying trait involved – or one of them – is certainly curiosity.

Is Curiosity a Good Trait?

Is there a reason some children are more curious than others, not to mention some adults? If we can foster curiosity (or at least, not squelch it), aren’t we shaping more interesting (contributing, creative) individuals? Shouldn’t we always encourage questions in our kids – so their desire to learn and think for themselves is nurtured?

Sometimes we let our curiosity get the better of us. We may not go so far as to chase after a Bad Guy (Hello, Harriet the Spy?), but do we poke around in boxes we shouldn’t, where we think a gift may be hidden?

That’s harmless enough, isn’t it?

What about hiding in the bushes, watching the comings-and-goings of an ex? What about scanning Facebook for the latest woman in his life, driven by a need to know that we can’t resist, only to find ourselves feeling lousy afterward?

This excerpt based on research examining curiosity as a personality trait, from a University of Pennsylvania newsletter, elaborates on the psychology of people who are curious.

· Curious people have an ongoing, intrinsic interest in both their inner experience and the world around them. Curious people tend to be attracted to new people, new things, and new experiences, and they are rarely bored.

· Everyone possesses curiosity to some degree. People differ according to the strength and breadth of their curiosity and their willingness to act on it…

Curiosity: Pros and Cons

And the expression “curiosity killed the cat?” Isn’t there a difference between a desire to learn and a need to know – even when that “knowing” is sticking our noses where they don’t belong?

Those who take curiosity too far may ignore risks, pursue blindly, and harm themselves as well as others.

An excess of this personal strength can mean Trouble with a capital T.

Spying through the bushes or the blinds? Not cool, and likely hurtful. But a healthy dose of curiosity? We’re eternally exploring. We’re uncovering surprises. We’re discovering. We’re creating.

Curiosity is helpful professionally. Curiosity is helpful in meeting people and forging relationships. Curiosity keeps life interesting!

Aren’t you curious to know what someone will do next?

Aren’t you curious to see how an old friend has changed?

Aren’t you curious about what may happen tomorrow?

Provoked and Poked by Curiosity Online

A recent email from a stranger piqued my interest. As it originated on a dating site from a very old profile, I thought I would let it pass – especially since I’m not in the market for dates.

But, when someone commented – “Aren’t you curious?” – I reconsidered. Oddly, I was less curious about the person who contacted me than I was about the “me” as represented on the site, with a profile I wrote seven years ago.

Finding a way back into an online space I haven’t accessed in so long was a way to glimpse my attitude at the time, confirming how I think I’ve changed – or not. Sure, I was also curious to see who was at the end of those four words: “Are you still single?” – but I was more curious to reacquaint myself with the woman he wrote to.

That “me.”

I dug through masses of emails, and remarkably, found a password. I responded to the man’s correspondence, and explained my current dating status. Amazingly, there were other messages from several years ago that I never knew anything about!

Maybe Curiosity Killed the Cat After All

Reading the missives that went unopened was both amusing and odd. Some were funny, others were dry. I felt badly I hadn’t answered; then again, I didn’t know those messages were there. (Might this service have a few issues with its mail system?)

Reading my own bio was another matter. It left an ache. I did indeed relive the naive optimism, expectation even – that the key pieces of my life would somehow fall into place if I did “the right things” and maintained a good attitude.

Am I sorry I followed my need to know and read the mail that was waiting?

No. It was a lovely message and made me smile.

Am I sorry I was curious about my own profile, and used this opportunity to step back in time seven years?

Yes, a bit. But that doesn’t mean I’ll be less curious in the future. I’m glad to have an inquiring nature, and the lessons that come from pursuing that need to know.

  • Are you the curious type?
  • Has your curiosity ever gotten you into trouble?
  • Have you used Facebook to check out an ex – and wished you hadn’t?