Curiosity Is Survival

10 Jul 24 Rachel Pearson


Curious employees tend to develop more innovative solutions and approaches to their work but the need for fostering curiosity is a matter of survival on an even bigger scale.

Survival of the Curious

Anne-Laure Le Cunff, speaking at our 5th Tilt Talk in May 2024, delivered a thought prodding exploration into the science and significance of human curiosity. She shone a light on our complex relationship with curiosity, despite it being a fundamental human trait.

Anne-Laure explained that curiosity activates the same reward pathways in our brains as basic needs like water, making our “thirst for knowledge” more than just a metaphor. She then delved into genetic evidence supporting the essential role of curiosity in human survival.

To illustrate this point, Anne-Laure described a study conducted with tribes in Northern Kenya. Researchers found that men possessing one or two alleles of the DRD4 7R gene, nicknamed the “wanderlust gene,” had higher BMIs and exhibited more exploratory behaviour in foraging for food compared to their counterparts without the gene.

She went on to explain that this genetic mutation affects dopamine sensitivity in the brain. Those with the wanderlust gene have a lower sensitivity to dopamine, driving them to seek increasingly bold and adventurous experiences to achieve the same neurochemical reward. This trait manifests in various ways, from a desire to explore new places and try different restaurants to a passion for acquiring knowledge and forming new relationships.

Anne-Laure emphasised the cognitive benefits of curiosity, noting that it promotes the formation of new neuronal connections in the brain. In a professional context, she pointed out that curious employees tend to develop more innovative solutions and approaches to their work.

The importance of embracing curiosity in the present moment, underscoring its value for personal growth, innovation, and problem-solving in various aspects of life can’t be overstated.

Watch more Tilt Talks.