Nav: Home

Curiosity has the power to change behavior for the better

August 04, 2016

DENVER - Curiosity could be an effective tool to entice people into making smarter and sometimes healthier decisions, according to research presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association.

"Our research shows that piquing people's curiosity can influence their choices by steering them away from tempting desires, like unhealthy foods or taking the elevator, and toward less tempting, but healthier options, such as buying more fresh produce or taking the stairs," said Evan Polman, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an author of the study.

Polman and his colleagues conducted a series of four experiments designed to test how raising people's curiosity might affect their choices. In each case, arousing curiosity resulted in a noticeable behavior change.

In the first experiment, the researchers approached 200 people in a university library and gave them a choice between two fortune cookies, one plain and one dipped in chocolate and covered in sprinkles. Half the participants were given no additional information and half were told that the plain cookie contained a fortune that would tell them something personal the researchers already knew about them. Participants whose curiosity was piqued (i.e., were told the plain cookie contained a fortune specifically about them) overwhelmingly chose the plain cookie by 71 percent. In contrast, when participants were told nothing, 80 percent chose the chocolate-dipped cookie.

"By telling people if they choose the ordinary cookie they'll learn something about themselves via the fortune inside of it, it piqued their curiosity, and therefore they were more likely to pick the plain cookie over the more tempting chocolate-dipped option," said Polman.

In another experiment, Polman and his colleagues increased the proportion of participants who chose to view what was described as a high-brow, intellectual video clip by promising to reveal the secret behind a magic trick.

While the results of the experiments in the library and the lab were interesting, the results of the field studies were particularly compelling, according to Polman. In the first, researchers were able to increase the use of the stairs in a university building nearly 10 percent by posting trivia questions near the elevators and promising the answers in the stairwell. In another, they increased the purchase of fresh produce in grocery stores by 10 percent by placing placards with a joke on them and printing the punchline on bag closures.

The strategies employed in these experiments and field studies are similar to those used by websites that attempt to increase traffic with sensationalized headlines containing phrases like, "You won't believe what happened next," or, "You'll be shocked when you see this," said Polman. Called clickbait, these headlines typically aim to exploit a "curiosity gap" by providing just enough information to make a reader curious, but not enough to satisfy that curiosity without engaging in a desired behavior (i.e., clicking on a link).

While Polman and his colleagues were not surprised that curiosity could change behavior, they were surprised at the overall strength of the effect. "Evidently, people really have a need for closure when something has piqued their curiosity. They want the information that fills the curiosity gap, and they will go to great lengths to get it."

Polman believes curiosity can be used to entice people to engage in healthier behaviors, such as exercising more or eating healthier foods.

"Our results suggest that using interventions based on curiosity gaps has the potential to increase participation in desired behaviors for which people often lack motivation," said Polman. "It also provides new evidence that curiosity-based interventions come at an incredibly small cost and could help steer people toward a variety of positive actions."
-end-
Session 1149: "Using Curiosity to Increase the Choice of Should Options," Paper Session, Thursday, Aug. 4, 11 - 11:50 a.m. MDT, Room 706, Level 2, Meeting Room Level, Colorado Convention Center, 700 14th Street, Denver.

Presentations are available from the APA Public Affairs Office.

Contact: Evan Polman at evan.polman@wisc.edu or by phone at (608) 262-1492.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA's membership includes more than 117,500 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives.

http://www.apa.org

If you do not want to receive APA news releases, please let us know at public.affairs@apa.org or 202-336-5700.

American Psychological Association

Related Curiosity Articles:

Rover findings indicate stratified lake on ancient Mars
A long-lasting lake on ancient Mars provided stable environmental conditions that differed significantly from one part of the lake to another, according to a comprehensive look at findings from the first three-and-a-half years of NASA's Curiosity rover mission.
'Halos' discovered on Mars widen time frame for potential life
Lighter-toned bedrock that surrounds fractures and comprises high concentrations of silica -- called 'halos' -- has been found in Gale crater on Mars, indicating that the planet had liquid water much longer than previously believed.
'Curiosity' exposes low CO2 level in Mars' primitive atmosphere
The CO2 level in Mars' primitive atmosphere 3.5 billion years ago was too low for sediments, such as those found by NASA's Curiosity exploration vehicle in areas like the Gale Crater on the planet's equator, to be deposited.
Antidote for partisanship? In science, curiosity seems to work
Disputes over science-related policy issues such as climate change or fracking often seem as intractable as other politically charged debates.
First detection of boron on the surface of Mars
Boron has been identified for the first time on the surface of Mars, indicating the potential for long-term habitable groundwater in the ancient past.
Baby robots help humans understand infant development
To understand the world, human beings fabricate and experiment. To understand ourselves and how we come to be the way we are, researchers are currently building baby robots with mechanisms that model aspects of the infant brain and body.
Curiosity can predict employees' ability to creatively solve problems, research shows
Employers who are looking to hire creative problem-solvers should consider candidates with strong curiosity traits, and personality tests may be one way to tease out those traits in prospective employees, new research from Oregon State University shows.
Teens with asthma almost twice as likely to smoke as their healthy counterparts
A study presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Scientific Meeting found adolescents with asthma were twice as likely to smoke as kids without asthma.
One in two users click on links from unknown senders
Most people know that e-mails and facebook messages from unknown senders can contain dangerous links.
Curiosity has the power to change behavior for the better
Curiosity could be an effective tool to entice people into making smarter and sometimes healthier decisions, according to research presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association.

Related Curiosity Reading:

Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover
by Markus Motum (Author), Markus Motum (Illustrator)

Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends On It
by Ian Leslie (Author)

The Design and Engineering of Curiosity: How the Mars Rover Performs Its Job (Springer Praxis Books)
by Emily Lakdawalla (Author)

Curiosity
by Alberto Manguel (Author)

A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life
by Brian Grazer (Author), Charles Fishman (Author)

Morbid Curiosities: Collections of the Uncommon and the Bizarre
by Paul Gambino (Author)

Albertus Seba's Cabinet of Natural Curiosities XXL (Jumbo)
by Albertus Seba (Author), Irmgard Musch (Author), Rainer Willmann (Author), Jes Rust (Author)

Why?: What Makes Us Curious
by Mario Livio (Author)

Seba: Cabinet of Natural Curiosities
by Irmgard Müsch (Author), Jes Rust (Author), Rainer Willmann (Author)

Breverton's Nautical Curiosities: A Book Of The Sea
by Terry Breverton (Author)

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Dying Well
Is there a way to talk about death candidly, without fear ... and even with humor? How can we best prepare for it with those we love? This hour, TED speakers explore the beauty of life ... and death. Guests include lawyer Jason Rosenthal, humorist Emily Levine, banker and travel blogger Michelle Knox, mortician Caitlin Doughty, and entrepreneur Lux Narayan.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#492 Flint Water Crisis
This week we dig into the Flint water crisis: what happened, how it got so bad, what turned the tide, what's still left to do, and the mix of science, politics, and activism that are still needed to finish pulling Flint out of the crisis. We spend the hour with Dr Mona Hanna-Attisha, a physician, scientist, activist, the founder and director of the Pediatric Public Health Initiative, and author of the book "What the Eyes Don't See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City".