Five Dimensions of Curiosity


We're all innately curious.

The question is, in what ways are you curious? 

According to psychologist and leading curiosity researcher, Todd Kashdan, there are five dimensions of curiosity. 

No. 1 | Joyous Exploration

The first dimension of curiosity is joyous exploration. This is the most commonly known concept of curiosity. 

It's the state of being consumed with wonder about the fascinating features of the world.

This is an idyllic state, where we express a cheerful enjoyment of life. It can be a joy of conversation, joy of eating, joy of anything one might do.

Individuals high in joyous exploration tend to:

  • See challenging situations as an opportunity to grow and learn.
  • Look for experiences that challenge how they think about themselves and the world.
  • Seek out situations where it is likely that they will have to think in-depth about something.
  • Enjoy learning about subjects that are unfamiliar.
  • Find it fascinating to learn new information.

No. 2 | Deprivation Sensitivity

The second dimension of curiosity is deprivation sensitivity. This is being hyper-aware in recognizing a gap in knowledge. Then, relieving this 'deprivation' by seeking knowledge to fill the gap.

This type of curiosity doesn’t necessarily feel good, but people who experience it work relentlessly to solve problems.

Individuals high in deprivation sensitivity tend to:

  • Think about solutions to difficult conceptual problems can keep them awake at night.
  • Spend hours on a single problem because they just can't rest without knowing the answer.
  • Feel frustrated when they can't figure out the solution to a problem, so work even harder to solve it.
  • Work relentlessly at problems that they feel must be solved.
  • Frustrated by not having all the information they need.

No. 3 | Social Curiosity

The third dimension is social curiosity. This is talking, listening, and observing others in order to learn what they are thinking and doing.

Human beings are inherently social animals, seeking to gain information about others. 

Socially curious individuals are better at resolving conflicts, more likely to receive social support, and more effective at building connections, trust, and commitments. 

Individuals high in social curiosity tend to:

  • Observe and learn the habits of others
  • Find out why people behave the way they do.
  • Listen intently when in conversation with others, and want to know what others having a conversation even when not a participant.

No. 4 | Stress Tolerance

The fourth dimension of curiosity is stress tolerance. This is a willingness to accept the stress that often comes with novelty and change. 

Without the ability to tolerate stress and change, people are less likely to seek new challenges, ask for resources, and voice dissent. This leads to disengagement. 

People lacking this ability may have the first three dimensions –– see information gaps, experience wonder, and are interested in others, but are unlikely to step forward and explore. 

This dimension of stress tolerance paired with social curiosity (above) cultivates the most creativity and innovation. 

Individuals high in stress tolerance tend to:

  • Handle the stress of uncertainty.
  • Try new things even when they don't have confidence in their abilities.
  • Seek out new experiences even when they're not sure what to expect.
  • Can cope and even thrive in ambiguity.

No. 5 | Sensation Seeking

The fifth dimension of curiosity is sensation seeking, also called thrill-seeking. This is the tendency to pursue new and different sensations, feelings, and experiences.

Sensation seeking describes people who chase novel, complex, and intense sensations, who love experience for its own sake, and who may take risks to pursue those experiences. 

Sensation seekers aren’t motivated by danger. They’re driven to conquer new challenges and soak up every experience life has to offer— and they simply don’t let danger dissuade them. 

Sensation seekers tend to become more resilient, report less stress, more positive emotions, and greater life satisfaction.

Individuals high in sensation seeking tend to:

  • Feel excited and alive when doing something new even when anxiety is present.
  • Find risk-taking exciting.
  • Challenge themselves to do scary things.
  • Prefer spontaneity over planning.
  • Prefer friends who are excitingly unpredictable.

Which dimension of curiosity sounds like you?

If you're high on all dimensions of curiosity, particularly Joyous exploration, your strength is fascination.

If you're high on Deprivation Sensitivity and medium on other dimensions, your strength is problem-solving. 

If you're high on Social Curiosity and medium on other dimensions, your strength is empathy.

If you're low on all dimensions, you may be avoiding stress. Try working on cultivating ways to manage your stress and take incremental steps to expand your curiosity.

When harnessed, curiosity is your superpower!