Curiosity is the key to a fulfilling life. That is, according to best-selling author and George Mason University assistant professor of psychology Todd Kashdan.

“Curiosity is a mindset which involves recognizing new information and seeking out new experiences,” said Kashdan, who in his 2009 book “Curious,” educates readers about curiosity’s ability to enhance well-being.

Sometimes in the college classroom, students’ curiosity is curbed by a pressure to succeed.

“Mason is generally run by strict guidelines for what you need to do to get good grades,” said Kashdan, who believes that the most effective teachers help students tap into their curiosity and enable students to connect the subject to the real world.

But not all teachers have this capability.

“Teachers tend to focus on obedience and making sure there are no problems in covering all syllabus materials,” Kashdan said.

Kashdan, who regularly teaches a class on the science of well-being, advises students preparing for exams to see the broader picture and ask themselves: “Why are we learning this?”

According to Kashdan, curiosity is also integral to social relationships.

Kashdan advises limiting small talk when meeting new people and treating conversations as experiments.

“Almost nobody likes small talk for more than two minutes,” Kashdan said. “Small talk censors ourselves and we know where the conversation is going. Throw things out there. Experiment with different sides of your personality and expose them.”

Sometimes in social encounters, a fear of rejection can prevent a person from seeking new opportunities. Kashdan believes this fear must be overcome.

“Act in ways you normally don’t,” Kashdan said. “You’ll fail anyway at first, so do it intentionally.”

Kashdan emphasizes that rejection should not be taken personally.

“You only own 50 percent of the conversation,” Kashdan said.

Kashdan believes that human curiosity can be limited by a need for certainty.

“Certainty keeps us in the past, while curiosity draws us to the future,” Kashdan said.

Curiosity is also essential to human growth.

“You can find happiness without curiosity,” Kashdan said. “But without curiosity, you’re not growing, you’re not evolving. You’re done.”

Rules and regulations also hurt curiosity.

“Rules should guide us, not govern us,” said Kashdan, noting that when followed to an extreme, rules turn individuals into mindless drones.

Curiosity can also be fettered by aspects of adult culture, Kashdan said.

“Adult culture fosters obedience and social appropriateness,” Kashdan said. “These get in the way of curiosity.”
It is impossible to know what motivates human curiosity, but Kashdan believes eagerness is an important factor.

“The sensation of eagerness motivates us to try new things,” Kashdan said. “If rewards came from being immediately satiated, we would focus on short-term gratification.”

If immediate rewards provided great satisfaction, curiosity would more than likely be minimal.

Kashdan is part of the larger positive psychology movement which developed in 1998.

“We study what’s going right with people and societies,” Kashdan said.

For more information on curiosity, positive psychology and Kashdan’s work, visit