Barriers to Curiosity

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Stefania Dangila

Because curiosity is so important for learning and creativity, it is important to understand what holds people back from being more curious[1]. Even though we are born naturally curious with the desire to explore and learn the world, our curiosity becomes weaker and weaker as we grow and develop into adults. There are many factors that inhibit our curiosity. The most important of them are mentioned in the following paragraphs.

Parents and teachers

Parents and educators play a major role in loss of curiosity, since they influence significantly the development of children. It is a fact that parents discourage their children by limiting their questions. Parents often come back tired from work and they don't have the courage or the time to occupy with their children and also sometimes they consider the questions as ridiculous. Parents often tell children not to do things – Don’t do that! Don’t go there! Don’t touch that[2]. This disapproval of curiosity diminishes interest and desire for exploration and discovery[2]. Another way parents extinguish their children's curiosity is by creating a dependence on their thinking and not requiring children to think for themselves. Furthermore, the current educational system tends to focus on the agenda, rather teaching the importance of the learning process. Education stresses the importance of knowledge and the answers to questions, by grading the students for their knowledge, rather than reinforce the process of asking questions.


Judgment blocks the freedom and openness necessary for curiosity. There are also many layers of judgment that impact our curiosity[1]. Ray & Myers (1986) outlined four kinds of negative judgment: self judgment, judgment from others, collective judgment,and judgment judging the judgment[3]. "Self judgment is our voice from within that tells us what are acceptable thoughts and behaviors. Judgment from others is described as when others judgment confirms self judgment. Collective judgment comes from media, culture (e.g., social class, etiquette, etc.). The fourth level, judgment judging the judgment, comes when the three lower levels of judgment impact her/his view of her/himself and the environment, often leading to insecurity or a feeling of inadequacy"[3].

Other barriers

Beliefs and perceptions

By holding beliefs, one thinks that he/she knows the truth about a situation and that learning is no longer necessary[4]. As soon as one thinks that she/he understands or knows the answer to the question, the desire for deeper understanding is limited[4]. Thus, our already established perceptions do not let us see beyond the unknown.

Personal confidence or arrogance

It is fact that excessive confidence limits ones curiosity. A person with overwhelmed confidence believes strongly in his or hers opinion and often cannot see what is happening beyond that. He or she doesn't wonder about the other persons opinions and he or she doesn't seek for new answers.

Fear of the unknown leads to caution

People often feel safe in their routines and they do not desire this to change for any reason. The change seems to be scary and reckless to them, since they exploration for new things may lead to the discovery of an unfamiliar situation, which might not be pleasant.

Apathy and lack of interest

Apathy or indifference towards a particular task may lessen ones curiosity about it[1]. A person that is disinterested to explore new ideas probably will lack the motivation to learn.

For further information regarding the role of Curiosity in the Adaptive Cycle go back to Group 2 Student Lecture.
For further information regarding the barriers to curiosity in an organization, see Case study Group 2.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Walsh Sharon, "Curious about Curiosity?" (2006). Creative Studies Graduate Student Master's Projects. Paper 74.Page 43.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Walsh Sharon, "Curious about Curiosity?" (2006). Creative Studies Graduate Student Master's Projects. Paper 74.Page 45
  3. 3.0 3.1 Walsh Sharon, "Curious about Curiosity?" (2006). Creative Studies Graduate Student Master's Projects. Paper 74.Page 44.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Walsh Sharon "Curious about Curiosity?" (2006). Creative Studies Graduate Student Master's Projects. Paper 74. Page 47.


Stefania Dangila