Childlike Curiosity is a Virtue

As a species, humans manifest a quality called neoteny, the retention of juvenile characteristics into adulthood. Neoteny has physical ramifications—scarce body hair and a flat face are two examples—but it also has neurological ones. Namely, we have an extraordinary capacity to continue learning throughout life.

If neoteny helps to explain our ability to learn, researchers are now figuring out what drives us to take advantage of it. In 2008, a group of scientists set up a novel fMRI study. When a sub­ject’s curiosity was piqued by a question (“What is the only country in the world that has a bill of rights for cows?” for instance), certain regions of the brain lit up. Those areas, known collectively as the basal ganglia, correspond to the brain’s reward centers—the same ones that govern our desire for sex or chocolate or total domination in Call of Duty 4. When people say they have an itch to figure something out, they’re not speaking metaphorically. They’re looking to get high on information.

Curiosity, then, is not some romantic quality. It is an adaptive response. Humans may not be the fastest or strongest creatures, but through the blind luck of evolution, we developed the desire and capacity to continually update our understanding of the world. And that has allowed us to master it—or get darn close. Call it the biological basis for being a nerd.

Notes:

An neotenatal evolutionary adaptation that allows us lifelong learning.

Folksonomies: evolution virtue curiosity

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Basal ganglia (0.940247): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Central nervous system (0.753906): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Evolution (0.684856): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Cerebrum (0.684660): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Cerebral cortex (0.610998): dbpedia | freebase
Thalamus (0.560463): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Biology (0.543387): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc

 The virtues of curiosity
Electronic/World Wide Web>Internet Article:  Ransom, Cliff (03.18.2014), The virtues of curiosity, Popular Science, Retrieved on 2014-04-21
  • Source Material [www.popsci.com]
  • Folksonomies: curiosity


    Schemas

    01 JAN 2010

     Scientific Virtues

    Memes that define the virtues of science and behaviors that we should emulate.
     60  
    17 FEB 2015

     Evolving Learners: Education as Artificial Selection

    If brains learn by pruning neurons that serve no purpose, the educators are pruners/encouragers of neurons. We should look at them as artificially selecting neurons in students.
     9