Curiosity could be an effective tool to entice people into making smarter and healthier decisions, a recent study has revealed.
“Our research shows that arousing 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, researcher at University of Wisconsin-Madison, in a statement.
Polman and his colleagues conducted experiments to test how raising people’s curiosity might affect their choices. In each case, arousing curiosity resulted in a noticeable behaviour change.
For the study, the researchers approached 200 people 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 contains a fortune that the researchers would reveal.
Participants whose curiosity aroused (i.e who were told that the plain cookie contained a fortune) overwhelmingly chose the plain cookie by 71 per cent. In contrast, when participants were told nothing, 80 per cent 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,” Polman added.
While researchers were not surprised that curiosity could change behaviour, they were surprised at the overall strength of the effect.
The results suggested that using interventions based on curiosity gaps has the potential to increase participation in desired behaviours for which people often lack motivation.