Curiosity is more of a skill than a trait.
And opportunities to learn to be curious are not evenly distributed.
This point hit me hard last week as we were discussing it in Wiser by Choice. I realized that curiosity is a privilege, or at least a by-product of privilege, rather than primarily an element of personality or choice.
The dominant narrative would suggest that we are all born curious and that somehow adulthood squeezes it out of us. But as I read the work of Ian Leslie, Diane Hamilton and others on curiosity, the evidence suggests that curiosity is amplified by exposure to knowledge and experiences, and an ability to ask questions. Hamilton writes, “We tend not to be curious about that to which we have not been exposed.” And asking questions is a skill that is more highly valued and taught in some contexts than others.
What’s the link with making wiser decisions faster? Hamilton argues that high performers must make tough decisions, and decision-making quality is increased by curiosity because it exposes us to more options and tends to reduce errors.
Privilege shows up in sneaky ways, including this one. Becoming more skilled at being curious is a choice, and it’s one I would highly recommend we make. We can improve with practice. But the starting point for that choice, as with so many others, is not equal.