By Art Markman
Often, when we’re weighed down with work and responsibilities, it can feel hard to be curious about the world around us. We may not readily conjure the same natural curiosity we had when we were kids and spent much of our time asking questions and learning about how things worked.
Cultivating this mentality in our adult lives requires thinking about what makes us want to learn in the first place. Curiosity is, very simply, a desire to know more about things. There are two forms of curiosity: a specific curiosity, which focuses on a particular topic, and a general curiosity, which is the desire to learn about everything.
There certainly are some people who have a deep natural desire to know a lot about a variety of topics. I call these people expert generalists. They have two psychological traits that drive this desire to learn: They are high on the personality trait of openness to experience—meaning that they find new ideas appealing. They are also high on the trait of need for cognition—so they like to think about things. This combination means that when they are introduced to a new topic, they are driven to think a lot about it.