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Curiosity: Reasons Why You Should Have It

Curiosity: Reasons Why You Should Have It

Curiosity killed the cat, but we all have to go one day. Curiosity is the basis of all great science and art in human history. Without it, we’d all be sitting in a cave somewhere eating whatever we could hunt and scavenge, hoping not to be attacked by our neighbor. Curiosity fuels innovation, and it’s what drives hackers, trolls, pirates, and other great human explorers to continue pushing the boundaries of human civilization. Here are some random facts you can learn if you’re curious…

Curious Facts about Love

  1. Although most wedding planning services are geared toward women, modern wedding rituals are mostly based on barbaric Germanic tribal rituals. Women didn’t start having equal rights in most places in the world until within the last half century, and even today, they don’t have all the rights they should. They have taken over the symbology of wedding ceremonies, though, so score one for the ladies.
  2. Even in the ancient Mayan days, chocolate was considered the drug of love. Cocoa and its many extracts have been used in love potions, lotions, elixirs, and other concoctions meant to stir people’s loins.
  3. Roses, with their variety of scents and colors, have also symbolized love for a very long time. Valentine’s Day, however, has been associated with several acts of violence.

Curious Facts about Nature

  1. Synthetic grass is actually better for the environment than a natural lawn. Studies have shown synthetic grass lowers your carbon footprint by eliminating lawn mower emissions, water usage, chemical fertilizers, and more. Advances in artificial turf technology have made synthetic lawns even more comfortable to walk on than natural grass.
  2. Big cats are one of the most hunted animals on the planet. Nearly every cat species in the wild is endangered and on the brink of extinction. Although cats are arguably the world’s most dangerous predator, human beings used invention to decimate big cat numbers. Unless something is done soon, big cats will stop existing in nature within a generation.
  3. Insects are consumed around the world as a viable source of protein. In fact, insects are ground up to make much of the junk food consumed in the US. The majority of your favorite syrups, cookies, candies, etc. contain some form of insect. Even without the help of major corporations, you’ll swallow dozens of creepy crawlers during your sleep.

Curious Facts about Technology

  1. The internet is the largest database of information ever collected in human history. With a wide array of drones already developed, technology has far surpassed humanity, and a computer-human war is a potential prospect, although it’s much more likely that a human being will be behind the next world war. Honda, Google, and many other companies are hard at work building cyborg versions of the most powerful animals on earth.
  2. Any device you have with a Wi-Fi or data antenna can be accessed by a third party without your knowledge, even if it’s turned off. Many governments and corporations have back doors in their software and databases to allow access to any of your private communications. Edward Snowden and Glen Greenwald have released a trove of data to the public regarding web security.
  3. Vegetable glycerin, the main component of the juice vaporized in electronic cigarettes, is also used by corporations to make cough syrup, dilute eggs, and more. Any drug can be dissolved in vegetable glycerin, so many municipalities have banned the devices. eCigs are healthier than cigarettes, though, as they release no carcinogens and can be used without the addictive nicotine.

Curious Facts about Law

  1. In the United States, you are innocent until proven guilty; however, it’s very easy to prove you guilty. You violate over a dozen laws on any given day. All a police officer has to do to find probable cause is follow you for a few hours. The US is still one of the best places to live for police responses, though, as many countries imprison, kill, or torture citizens with no provocation.
  2. Even though you’re the creator of a product, song, work of art, etc., until you register the copyright and/or trademark you can’t pursue someone else for infringing on your rights regarding your creation. Even if you protect your creation within the US, it’s very hard to pursue copyright infringement across international borders and your creation, if successful, could be copied and sold at will.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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