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      The Pandora Effect : The Power and Peril of Curiosity

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      Psychological Science

      SAGE Publications

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          Abstract

          Curiosity-the desire for information-underlies many human activities, from reading celebrity gossip to developing nuclear science. Curiosity is well recognized as a human blessing. Is it also a human curse? Tales about such things as Pandora's box suggest that it is, but scientific evidence is lacking. In four controlled experiments, we demonstrated that curiosity could lead humans to expose themselves to aversive stimuli (even electric shocks) for no apparent benefits. The research suggests that humans possess an inherent desire, independent of consequentialist considerations, to resolve uncertainty; when facing something uncertain and feeling curious, they will act to resolve the uncertainty even if they expect negative consequences. This research reveals the potential perverse side of curiosity, and is particularly relevant to the current epoch, the epoch of information, and to the scientific community, a community with high curiosity.

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              Social psychology. Just think: the challenges of the disengaged mind.

              In 11 studies, we found that participants typically did not enjoy spending 6 to 15 minutes in a room by themselves with nothing to do but think, that they enjoyed doing mundane external activities much more, and that many preferred to administer electric shocks to themselves instead of being left alone with their thoughts. Most people seem to prefer to be doing something rather than nothing, even if that something is negative. Copyright © 2014, American Association for the Advancement of Science.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Psychological Science
                Psychol Sci
                SAGE Publications
                0956-7976
                1467-9280
                March 14 2016
                March 21 2016
                : 27
                : 5
                : 659-666
                Article
                10.1177/0956797616631733
                27000178
                © 2016

                http://journals.sagepub.com/page/policies/text-and-data-mining-license

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