where does our curiosity go?

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What Kills Our Innate Curiosity?By Mike RotherAssistance by Bruce E. Wexler 2016

Why do we jump to conclusions?

Why are we sure about things we don't know?As Mark Twain put it...

"It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."

2Jumping brain by Emilio Garcia

You May Have Noticed this Effect

Why does this happen?Children seem to be naturally curious and try things in a basic scientific manner (expectation -> test -> learn)

As we get older, this exploratory mindset seems to fade. 3

Every kid starts out as a natural-born scientist, and then we beat it out of them. A few trickle through the system with their wonder andenthusiasmfor science intact. Carl SaganWere all born with deep natural capacities for creativity and systems of mass education tend to suppress them. Sir Ken Robinson (in the most popular TED talk)Many people suggest that school 'beats it out of us,'which sounds plausible

It is nothing short of a miracle that modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry. For this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom. Albert Einstein


But Maybe We Should Take a Deeper Look


Our Common Assumption May beWrong - Here's WhyIn the early part of life our brain is highly plastic and is shaping itself through our encounters with the physical and social aspects of our environment. As small children we use what we learn from sensory input -- from experiments -- to develop our internal structures.By early adulthood our brain has woven some elaborate neural pathways and we now have a reduced ability to change them. As adults we tend to seek out situations that match our established internal structures, or try to alter our environment to make it match those internal structures.


For more on this, see the bookBrain and Cultureby Bruce E. Wexler

2006, MIT Press7

Comments by Bruce E. WexlerProfessor of Psychiatry, Yale University8(1)We stop taking in new information when there is enough of a match to an existing internal representation based on experience.

(2)There are efficiencies in concluding that something matches a common feature of our environment, instead of treating each object or situation as something new, but that also means weare less open to seeing novelty.

(3)Psychology research shows that we have lower perceptual thresholds for things with which we are familiar.

(4)Research shows that we discredit information, and are morelikely to forget it, when it does not match our internal structures(our opinions or beliefs).

Child'sMindAdultMindEngaged in building neural structures

Open, exploring, learningUnable to navigate daily life and survive aloneUtilizes established neural structures

Easily navigates daily lifeLess open-minded and curiousIt's a Normal Part of Becoming an AdultGreat...But...9

Once we hit early adulthood we automatically become less likely to use creative and scientific thinking, due to having neural pathways that help us navigate the day in a way that children cannot.

Our life experiences build neural structures, which simultaneously reduces our curiosity.In Short, it Happens Automatically10

For instance, a child cannot drive a car becauseit doesn't yet have the neural structures, but ispretty good at exploring and learning new things.

An adult has extensive neural structures that it relies on to drive a car (and many other things) but is now less involved in exploring.It May Be a TradeoffThat Helps Us Survive


I'd like to propose that it's not schooling that beats an innate curiosity out of us. It happens allby itself as we mature.

If there's a problem with schooling in this regard, it may be that schooling does not beat curiosity into us.Perhaps We Shouldn't Blame the Schools12


Scientific Thinking is AcquiredThrough Practice

Beyond early childhoodit's not our default mode.

We are notoriously bad at scientific thinking due to the predominance of our acquired neural structures.

Why is knowing thisuseful?14

The better we understand howour brain works...

...the more we can counteract its natural biases and avoid the problems they lead to.15

So what kills ourinnate curiosity?


WE DO IT TOOURSELVES(Don't be offended, I do it too)17

What Can We Do? Keep in mind that...

18Any human endeavor involves a process of testing and possibly adjusting.


19There's Always a Threshold of Knowledge

Predictable Zone

Current Knowledge Threshold

Next Target ConditionUnpredictable / Learning ZoneObstacles Unclear Territory

?We wantto be here nextComplexity?Source: Toyota Kata

Best wishes to you and your team for practicing routines of scientific thinkingas you pursue your goals!20