3 surprising ways curiosity changes your brain

The psychology of curiosity

Tom Barrett


You are more engaged, active, and open-minded when you’re curious. But what is it about curiosity that makes it so powerful? In this issue, we explore the psychology of curiosity and three surprising ways it changes your brain.

Curiosity Boosts Memory

In a study published in 2014, researchers discovered a connection between memory and curiosity levels. Here are some of the key findings from the investigation by the University of California at Davis:

  1. When people are curious to learn the answer to a question, they are better at learning that information — not only in the very short term but also after a 24-hour delay.
  2. Most surprising, though, was participants had greater recall of unrelated, extraneous or incidental information present at the time.
  3. Scans revealed when people were more curious, brain activity rose in regions that transmit dopamine signals; in the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with memory and regions related to reward.

Point number two helps me get a handle on the characteristic of being open-minded. We can remember more of our experiences when we are curious.

A little test you can do for this is to try and remember extraneous information connected to an enjoyable learning experience.

Risk and Reward

When faced with something new, our brain weighs the risks and rewards before deciding whether to engage.

This happens when you are scrolling and decide to open an article or photo. You made a similar micro-calculation when you saw the subject of this email. Is this worth my time?

Curiosity, the restless feeling of wanting to know more, tips the scales in favour of exploration.

The regions deep in your brain responsible for processing rewards and motivation are active when you become curious. The nucleus accumbens, the bilateral caudate nucleus, and the ventral tegmental area all fire up when we want to know more.

When we’re curious, our brain has decided the potential rewards outweigh the risks. And this instinctive…



Tom Barrett

Re-discover the curiosity you had when you were 6. Learning, Leadership, Innovation. Join Medium to support my writing https://buff.ly/3RtxqpE << Affiliate link