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There are two kinds of curiosity

McKinley Valentine — 2 min read
There are two kinds of curiosity
Photo by Bing Han / Unsplash

More than two kinds, since it's really just a series of frameworks for slicing things differently to understand them better.

But here's the framework I just heard about:

Interest-based vs deprivation-based.

Interest-based is when you feel happy or excited or keen when you learn something new, and you seek out new experiences or knowledge because it's enjoyable.

Deprivation-based is when you realise you're lacking knowledge and it's annoying or frustrating and you feel an urge to remedy the gap. It might not be particularly fun. If you read a word you don't know the meaning of, and feel bad for not knowing, and that drives you to look it up, that's deprivation. But it's also riddles and puzzles: you become aware of a lack of knowledge and feel compelled to find out what you're missing. It's also been framed as 'diverse curiosity' vs 'specific curiosity'. Driven to learn anything vs driven to learn this one thing.

Interest-based is usually when you learn something completely new, deprivation-based is when you discover something missing from a set of knowledge you expect to have, and you want to complete it. For example, if you hear the phrase 'Hanseatic League' once, it might not bother you if you don't know what it is. But if you're reading a bunch of European history, and the phrase keeps coming up again and again, you might start to feel irked about not knowing what it refers to.

And then you look it up on Wikipedia and it's just this perfect storm of I-curiosity ("oooh Hanseatic League facts!") and D-curiosity (basically every hyperlinked phrase you don't already know about).

Deprivation curiosity is also the basis of clickbait: "find out which celebrities are secretly lizards! You won't BELIEVE no. 6!"

"The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity." -- Ellen Parr

This piece was originally published in The Whippet #68 – subscribe to get the next one in your inbox!

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