CWB Senior Scientist Todd Kashdan’s Research Team Identifies a Five-Dimensional Curiosity Scale

by Whitney Hopler, Communications Director

CWB Senior Scientist Todd Kashdan’s Research Team Identifies a Five-Dimensional Curiosity Scale

We know that being curious strengthens well-being. But what does curiosity actually look like in action? A team of researchers led by our center’s Senior Scientist Dr. Todd Kashdan investigated curiosity and found evidence for five distinct factors involved in being curious for different people: Joyous Exploration, Deprivation Sensitivity, Stress Tolerance, Social Curiosity, and Thrill Seeking. Those factors form the Five-Dimensional Curiosity Scale (5DC) that they identified. The team’s research revealed groundbreaking well-being insights related to how people express their curiosity.

The study, “The Five-Dimensional Curiosity Scale: Capturing the Bandwidth of Curiosity and Identifying Four Unique Subgroups of Curious People,” was published recently in the Journal of Research in Personality. It was recently featured in a Harvard Business Review article, in which the team wrote: “Rather than regard curiosity as a single trait, we can now break it down into five distinct dimensions. Instead of asking, “How curious are you?” we can ask, “How are you curious?”

Research team members were Kashdan, Melissa Stiksma (Doctoral Research Fellow for our center), David Disabato (Clinical Doctoral Student, Mason's Psychology department), Patrick McKnight (Associate Professor, Mason's Psychology department), John Bekier (Marketing and Research Resources, Inc.), Joel Kaji (Time, Inc.), and Rachel Lazarus (Time, Inc.)

In the study’s abstract, the team wrote that, “Taking advantage of this multidimensional model, we found evidence for four distinct types of curious people. … The Fascinated (28% of sample), Problem Solvers (28%), Empathizers (25%), and Avoiders (19%). Subgroups differed in their passionate interests, areas of expertise, consumer behavior, and social media use; challenging an assumption that there is a homogenous population to be discriminated on a single dimension from incurious to very curious. With greater bandwidth and predictive power, the 5DC offers new opportunities for research on origins, consequences, life outcomes, and intervention strategies to enhance curiosity.”

Writing in the Harvard Business Review article, the team noted that, “A monolithic view of curiosity is insufficient to understand how that quality drives success and fulfillment in work and life. To discover and leverage talent and to form groups that are greater than the sum of their parts, a more nuanced approach is needed.”

What the team discovered about curiosity led to a variety of new well-being insights. In the study’s conclusion, they pointed out: “Our findings show that particular dimensions of curiosity are especially linked to well-being and healthy outcomes whereas other dimensions are unrelated or negatively related to healthy outcomes. We also found that the five dimensions of curiosity that exist can be combined into meaningful profiles to capture the heterogeneity of people in the population. Importantly, these profiles differentially predicted attitudes, values, and the use of attention, money, and time in daily life on interests and the emergence of expertise. To our knowledge, these results are the first to clarify the fundamental role of stress tolerance as a dimension of curiosity with the strongest links to healthy outcomes. We hope that this research will inspire researchers and practitioners to explore the bandwidth of curiosity, to unravel the mechanisms and paths to adaptive and maladaptive functioning.”