“Curiosity killed the cat” is an unfortunate and inaccurate adage. Curiosity is instead the impetus for acquiring knowledge. The child without healthy inquisitiveness would never learn to walk or talk!
Being inquisitive is its own motivation; when you are curious about something you are motivated to learn about it. You would tend to delve deeply into subjects that grab your attention, and in the process learn more about yourself and the nature of the world.
Curiosity plays a part in decision-making as well; as you wonder what the result of several options could be.
Science explains that curiosity triggers the release of dopamine (the “feel good” hormone) in proportion to the difference between the anticipated and realized rewards of a particular event. The brain pays more attention to new stimuli, and over time repeated exposure to the same event eventually becomes boring (reduced dopamine release). The feeling of satisfaction when we acquire the new experience is pleasurable and therefore helps us remember.
Science also demonstrates that there is increased activity in the hippocampus (responsible for building memory) when someone is learning something about which they were curious.
Curious people tend to be highly self-motivated, due to the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when the gap is closed between the unknown and the now-known. The more curiosity is satisfied, the less fear of failure they experience. They are generally more intelligent and find problem-solving to be easy.
Inquisitiveness is closely related to high performance at work and at school. Acquiring knowledge is easier, and its own reward. The more we learn the more we want to learn.
You can develop your own sense of curiosity (and the brain benefits that go along with it) by practicing mindfulness – making a conscious effort to direct your attention to something in your environment, and allowing yourself to wonder about it. Wonder leads to learning.