Curiosity is our #1 primal emotion.
Jaak Panksepp calls it the "Seeking emotion." Mark Waldman refers to it as the "desire-to-acquire-more" instinct. Curiosity and novelty motivates us to take action in the world. When something is new, different, intriguing and pleasurable (not painful or threatening) the nucleus accumbens releases dopamine. This increases conscious awareness giving us more ability to figure out how to get what we instinctually desire. Dopamine improves psychological mood and decreases neurological stress. Result: we live longer and happier.
Waldman recommends the following exercise to find out what your instinctual (unconscious) desires are:
On a sheet of paper, write down all past and present things that made you curious to explore the world. What excites you on the deepest levels of your being? What has captured your interest in the past? What motivated you the most to change your life? At different ages, you have different interests. Young children love toys and friends and will do almost anything to “collect” them. Adolescents are curious about sex, so they create strategies to experience it. Perhaps you're curious about how the brain sees reality in different ways, so you read thousands of brain articles.
Experiment with making a list of 20-50 things that spark your curiosity and see what patterns you might discern. Curiosity motivates you to take action in the world. Anything that is new, novel, and interesting stimulates midbrain regions that will release dopamine - the pleasure neurochemical that is essential for happiness and success.
One of many studies:
Neuron. 2006 Aug 3;51(3):280-2.
The lure of the unknown.
Knutson B, Cooper JC.
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