What is Curiosity? Just an Emotion or a Fundamental?

Yes, we all get curious, but what is curiosity exactly? Is it a simple emotion like love and fear, or something more important in terms of existence? In the first place, why do we want to know? In this post, I am going to explain to you how essential curiosity is for both the mind and the Universe.

We could say that curiosity is an emotion, because obviously we feel curious. However, there are differences between curiosity and the other emotions both in terms of the reasons they arise from, and what they influence. See, all the other emotions could be explained by heredity, the needs related to the body or environmental factors:

Drawn by Onur Can Duman

* Let us take love, for instance. Love is basically related to neurochemical reactions, and on the surface, it might have reasons related to beauty, harmony and humanistic needs such as belonging to someone.

* Hate, also, could have several reasons. You could have a conflict with someone, or it could be because of envy, which is another emotion that springs in babyhood.

* Fear is a result of the necessity of protection from the dangers in nature. Humans have evolved to have fear due to the needs of safety and survival.

I could give more examples, but I think you have got the point. My argument is that curiosity has more fundemental reasons than the factors that cause other emotions. Do you wonder what they are? Let us examine curiosity more closely in order to find the answers together:

Curiosity is the urge that helps you form your own “perceived universe”. The more you choose to learn, the wider your mind gets. While most of our decisions are made in order to be happy, in learning decisions, the key purpose is not happiness. When we are curious, we just want to know.

Sometimes we want to learn something even if it is not really necessary. Although we know that the information will be of no use, we still want to know!

There are also times that we know it is going to be bad news, but still, we want to learn what it is regardless of the outcome. Curiosity has nothing to do with joy. The thrill that comes along with curiosity is just a side effect. We do not get curious to be thrilled.

I can almost hear you say, “Ok, but what is curiosity? Why do we get curious? Get to the point!”. Actually, there are three fundamental reasons behind it:


A baby discovers the outer world before it realizes itself. What helps the baby observe the outer world in detail is the urge of curiosity. After a while, the baby descerns the distinction between ‘others’ and ‘the self’, and this way it gains an identity.

If we had not been curious in the first place, we could not get to know the physical world. Therefore, by implication, we would not be able to make a distinction between the outer world and ourselves. That is to say, we notice the existence of ourselves under favour of our curiosity.

Curiosity is the urge that makes both the Universe and yourself existent for you in the beginning, but it also has a reestablishment function that continues for life:

With each new information you obtain, you actually become ‘a brand new mind’, in other words, a different person in terms of what you know. One little piece of information can change the way you think and interpret the world around you.

Some people are curious by nature, and some are not.” is not a suggestion I agree with. In my opinion, we all are curious at first, but conditions get in the way of our curiosity. Therefore, we learn to resist our curiosity, and it becomes a habit to not learn:

* Some families do not encourage their children to learn new things. On the contrary, they restrain them by saying things like “Do not touch that!”, “This is not for you!” etc.

* Every society has its unwritten rules. In many cultures, ‘wondering too much’ is not socially approved.

* Personal excuses such as fear and laziness, also, block one’s curiosity.

* Grown ups have lots of responsibilities. Most of us have to work and try to make money for our families. In adulthood, usually there is not enough time to learn new things.

Stupidity is not an obstacle for a person to wonder. There is no correlation between curiosity and intelligence. Everyone gets curious about things that correspond to his/her capacity. High IQ has nothing to do with it.

Before we get to the second fundamental reason behind curiosity, let us briefly mention another function of the emotion:

One’s logic is built on what he/she has learnt in the past. This means that curiosity also has an influence on our future decisions. Logic works just like a computer; it processes the data that have been obtained until that moment. That is to say, each learning decision you make indirectly affects your future.


In your mind, the things you do not know are included as questions, in other words, as seeds which have not come into leaf. If you think enough, the question “What should I do?” will eventually turn into an answer (information). Before you get to the answer, that information only has ‘potential existence’ in your mind.

Now, think of a thing or a piece of information in the Universe, which is unknown to everybody. Until someone learns about it, it can only have potential existence, just like the unattained information in the mind. Starting from this point, we could say that curiosity helps ‘the categorical existence of things’ in the Cosmos.

If you want to learn more about the role of our minds in existence, I suggest you to read another blog post of mine: “Is Reality Real? | The Reasons Why Life Could Be An Illusion“.


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