Curiosity is important for human development and learning and encourages an exploration for new information. New research published in the Journal of Individual Differences found that high dispositional curiosity is related to greater general knowledge, but not necessarily related to fluid intelligence.
Curiosity is important for both crystallized intelligence (i.e., one’s general knowledge) and fluid intelligence (i.e., one’s ability to reason and use novel information). “Seeking out new environments, being more attentive, and exploring more and more comprehensively might, in turn, also increase the probability of gaining new information,” explain study author Freda-Marie Hartung and colleagues. “Thus, it is plausible to assume that interindividual differences in epistemic curiosity are related to interindividual differences in general knowledge.”
Thus, the researchers were interested in how dispositional curiosity influences one’s acquisition of knowledge and how fluid intelligence affects this relationship. Hartung and her colleagues recruited 100 participants during lectures at a German University to complete a self-report questionnaire on the relevant personality traits (i.e., curiosity, conscientiousness, social anxiety). They also completed measures assessing their general knowledge (i.e., geography, history, math, natural sciences) and fluid intelligence (i.e., reasoning and memory tasks).
In general, results show that curiosity is positively related to one’s general knowledge and reasoning ability. However, it is not related to mental processing speed or memory indicating that curiosity is not related to fluid intelligence. Further analysis suggested that the relationship between curiosity and general knowledge is likely explained by one’s reasoning ability, not overall fluid intelligence.
“The findings suggest that epistemic curiosity facilitates the acquisition of knowledge by promoting reasoning. Thus, the findings of the present study shed light on the mechanisms connecting curiosity and knowledge,” the researchers said.
The authors do cite some limitation to this work such as the inability to infer causality. Specifically, we cannot say from these data whether differences in curiosity cause changes general knowledge or vice versa. Further, the sample was small and likely not representative of the general population.