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Essays About Curiosity: Top 5 Examples and 10 Prompts

Are you writing essays about curiosity? Then, read our guide of helpful essay examples and writing prompts.

Curiosity refers to the strong desire and active interest to learn something. It could start with a burning question that leads to more questions. This series of questioning can evolve into a pursuit that paves the way for discoveries. Curiosity can change how we perceive life and our world. While everyone is inherently curious, how we use our curiosity, for good or bad, shows who we are as people.

Check out our essay examples and topic prompts for your curiosity essay , and stay curious till the end. And when your essay is complete, check out our best essay checkers and take the slog out of proofreading.

1. Curiosity: Why It Matters, Why We Lose It, And How To Get It Back by Christy Geiger

2. did curiosity really kill the cat by mario livio, 3.  why curiosity, diversity, and inclusion are the secrets to successful business transformation by beatriz sanz saiz, 4. the five dimensions of curiosity by todd b. kashdan et. al, 5. curiosity: we’re studying the brain to help you harness it by ashvanti valji and matthias gruber, 1. how has curiosity helped you in life, 2. the benefits of curiosity, 3. how does curiosity lead to scientific discoveries, 4. encouraging curiosity in the classroom, 5. diverse vs. specific curiosity, 6. can curiosity be practiced, 7. curiosity in early civilization, 8. curious animals: what are they thinking, 9. the curiosity rover, 10. negative effects of curiosity.

“…[A]s an adult, we can reach a learning plateau. We feel good to get to a point of understanding and knowledge, but begin to lose our curiosity. We find it easier to live as the expert who knows than the student who grows.”

Adulthood can have a negative impact on our levels of wonder and curiosity. Geiger believes it’s time to regain our childlike curiosity as we move to a tech-driven industrial world where constant innovation and adoption of technologies are required. You might also be interested in these essays about critical thinking.

“Curiosity is the best remedy for fear. What I mean by that is that often we are afraid of the unknown, of those things we know very little about. Becoming curious about them, and making an effort to learn more, usually acts to relieve that fear.”

Who would’ve thought an essay could be weaved out from a common expression of curiosity? This curiosity essay finds that the saying “curiosity killed the cat” started quite differently than we know it today. Its meaning now evolves to echo parts of history when conventional and extremist ideologies would silence inquisitive minds to avoid being challenged and overturned.

“To be a leader in a context of superfluid markets, where everything is connected, an organization needs to constantly explore which are the new “needs,“ which technologies exist, how they can be maximized and where they can be used to innovate boldly to create new experiences, goods and services.”

Curiosity will drive businesses to survive and thrive in this digital age. But, they also need to seek assistance from diversity and an inclusive organization. With these two, businesses can stimulate new thinking and perspectives that can feed into the curiosity of the organization on the ways it can reach its goals and be the market’s next disruption.

“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?’”

Kashdan builds on existing curiosity research to identify five dimensions of curiosity : joyous exploration, deprivation sensitivity, stress tolerance, social curiosity, and thrill-seeking. Once you’ve assessed the right curiosity type for you, it might do wonders in catalyzing your curiosity into progress and development outcomes for your goals and well-being.

“It might seem obvious that if you are curious about something, you pay more attention to it, making it easier to remember later – but the effects of curiosity on memory are more complex than this.”

The essay presents new research on how a type of curiosity aiming to bridge information gaps connects with brain functions associated with enhanced learning. As far as education is concerned, the discovery strongly supports the need to create an environment to encourage students to ask questions rather than just give children a set learning program to consume.

10 Writing Prompts For Essays About Curiosity

Narrate an instance in your life when curious questions led to positive findings and experiences that helped you in life. Whether it was acing an exam, learning a new language, or other aspects of everyday life. Elaborate on how this encouraged you to be more interested and passionate about learning. See here our storytelling guide to help you better narrate your story. 

Research shows that curiosity can stimulate positive emotions. Many research studies outline the other benefits of curiosity to our health, relationships, happiness, and cognitive abilities. Gather more studies and data to elaborate on these advantages. To create an engaging piece of writing, share your experience on how curiosity has influenced your outlook on life. 

Albert Einstein is renowned worldwide as a famous theoretical physicist. Throughout his research, he used curious thinking and openmindedness to write his theoretical papers, changing the world as we know it. Curiosity is an essential attribute of scientists, as they can look for solutions to problems from a whole new angle. For this essay, look a the role of curiosity in the scientific process. How does a curious mindset benefit scientific discoveries? Conduct thorough research and use real-life examples to show your findings and answer this question.

School classrooms can be the playground of a student’s imagination and curiosity. In your essay, write about how your school and teachers encourage students to ask questions. Next, elaborate on how the learning prompts promote curiosity. For example, some teachers tell students that it is okay to fail sometimes. This assurance helps students think with new perspectives and solutions without the fear of failure.

When researching the different kinds of curiosity, you will find two categories- diverse and specific curiosity. Look into the different attributes of these curiosity types, and identify which one, in your opinion, is the better type of curiosity to foster. For an interesting argumentative essay, you can research which kind of curiosity you have and discuss whether you have a better or worse approach to curious thinking. Pull facts from online research to support your argument and include personal anecdotes to engage your readers.

Curiosity is an inherent human trait. We are all curious. But like any trait, we can practice being curious to improve our thinking. In this writing prompt, provide your readers with strategies that enhance curiosity. For example, meditation can help stimulate more curious thoughts. 

In early civilization, people answered many of life’s questions with religion. How did humanity shift from heavily relying on gods to believing in science? What part does curiosity play in this shift? Try piquing your curious mind and answer these questions in your essay for an exciting piece of writing. 

Essays about curiosity: Curious Animals

If animals solely relied on their basic instincts and functions, there is a high chance they would not survive in our world. According to Primatologist Richard Bryne in his paper Animal Curiosity , some animals can demonstrate curious behaviors that lead to new learning and survival skills. For this writing prompt, peer into curiosity in the animal kingdom and cite animals known to have high intelligence. Is curiosity at the foundation of their high IQs? Discuss this question in your essay.

This essay prompt is about the car-sized Curiosity Rover of NASA. The rover was designed to navigate the Gale crater on Mars and collect rock and soil samples for analysis. In your essay, research and write about why it was named “Curiosity” and its significant contributions to the Mars exploration mission.

Curiosity can have negative undertones from the expression “curiosity killed the cat.” Get to the heart of the matter and look through existing literature on the adverse outcomes of curiosity. One example to cite could be this study which concluded that one kind of curiosity is associated with errors, confusion, lack of humility, and vulnerability to fake news and so-called pseudo-profound bullshits. 

Curious to learn more about effective writing? Check out our guide on how to write an argumentative essay .  If writing an essay sounds like a lot of work, read our guide on how to write a five-paragraph essay .

essay about being curious

Yna Lim is a communications specialist currently focused on policy advocacy. In her eight years of writing, she has been exposed to a variety of topics, including cryptocurrency, web hosting, agriculture, marketing, intellectual property, data privacy and international trade. A former journalist in one of the top business papers in the Philippines, Yna is currently pursuing her master's degree in economics and business.

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The Importance Of Being Curious

essay about being curious

“Why do I feel cold and shiver when I have a fever?”

I knew the day would come when my little girl would learn to talk and inevitably start asking those much-anticipated questions. The questions themselves weren’t worrying me.  I was actually looking forward to seeing where her curiosity would lie.

What was bothering me was whether or not I would know the answers.

In the age of the smartphone, this may seem like a silly worry.  Surely, the answers to almost everything would be just one Google away.

Still, I struggled with how I was going to prepare to become an all-knowing mother. Then one day it struck me: I didn’t need to have all the answers. What a great example I could set if I let my daughter know that I, too, am still learning. And I realized how much more I could learn if I took another look at things I thought I already knew the answer to with the curiosity of a child. My little girl’s mind is a beginner’s mind – curious, open to new ideas, eager to learn, and not based on preconceived notions or prior knowledge. I decided that I would approach her questions with a beginner’s mind, too.

Once I decided to become more curious, I started noticing that curiosity was becoming more prominent in the workplace, too. Leaders, it seems, don’t need to have all the answers, either. But they do need to be curious.

Curious about curiosity, I searched for answers, and found frequent references to Albert Einstein’s famous words, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” We might well quibble with the notion that Einstein had no “special talent,” but he wouldn’t have solved the riddles of the universe if not for his passionate curiosity. Then I came across another Einstein quote: “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence.”

Curiosity’s reason for existence in the workplace

Decades ago, management thinker Peter Drucker placed knowing the right questions to ask at the core of his philosophy on strategic thinking. Many of today’s leaders have adopted Drucker’s “be (intelligently) curious” philosophy, an approach that is becoming more salient as the world increases in complexity.

Warren Berger, in “ Why Curious People Are Destined for the C-Suite, ” cited Dell CEO Michael Dell’s response to a PwC survey that asked leaders to name a trait that would most help CEOs succeed. Dell’s answer? “I would place my bet on curiosity.” Dell was not alone. Alan D. Wilson, then CEO of McCormick & Company, responded that those who “are always expanding their perspective and what they know – and have that natural curiosity – are the people that are going to be successful.”

Leaders don’t need to know everything. In fact, it’s an impossibility. Things change too rapidly for that. What worked yesterday can’t be guaranteed to work tomorrow. Disrupters are just around the corner. If you’re not one of them, you may well end up a disruptee. Today’s leaders need to be curious, and know how to ask the questions that lead them to consider new ideas.

How we can all develop curiosity

Becoming a mum has taught me how to handle my little girl’s curiosity. It strikes me that leaders in new roles also have to learn what to do and how to act in ways that are new and different. What I find works best is approaching your new role with a curiosity mindset, completely open to new ideas and suggestions. Here are some ways to develop your curiosity:

  • Apply a beginner’s mind:  Be open to and look for new and novel ways of doing things.
  • Ask questions, listen and observe:  Seek first to understand, not to explain.
  • Try something new:  Take a different route to work, read a book in a genre you usually avoid, go to an art gallery you wouldn’t normally go to. Each of these activities opens your mind to new points of view.
  • Be inquisitive:  Ask others their opinions, perspectives, and their approaches to certain things. Everyone does things a bit differently, and there are potential new answers and solutions to problems hidden in other people’s thinking.

These are a few of my ideas. I’d be interested in hearing yours. How do you stay curious?

Dalia Molokhia is a senior learning solutions manager at Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning. Email her at  [email protected] .

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Home — Essay Samples — Life — Character Traits — Curiosity

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Curiosity Essays

What makes a good curiosity essay topics.

When it comes to writing a curiosity essay, the topic you choose can make all the difference. A good curiosity essay topic should be thought-provoking, engaging, and unique. It should spark curiosity in both the writer and the reader, and leave room for exploration and discovery. But how do you go about choosing the perfect topic for your curiosity essay?

One way to brainstorm and choose an essay topic is to start by thinking about your own interests and passions. What topics or questions have always piqued your curiosity? What are you eager to learn more about? By starting with what genuinely interests you, you are more likely to find a topic that will captivate your readers as well.

It's also important to consider the scope and depth of the topic. Is it broad enough to allow for meaningful exploration and analysis, but not so broad that it becomes overwhelming? A good curiosity essay topic should strike the right balance, providing enough material for a compelling essay without becoming too unwieldy.

Furthermore, a good essay topic should be relevant and timely. Is there a current event, trend, or issue that has sparked your curiosity? Choosing a topic that is relevant to the present moment can add an extra layer of interest and urgency to your essay.

Ultimately, What Makes a Good essay topic is its ability to inspire curiosity, provoke thoughtful exploration, and engage the reader in a meaningful way. A good curiosity essay topic should leave the reader with a sense of wonder and a desire to learn more.

Best Curiosity Essay Topics

Here are 20 curiosity essay topics that are sure to spark interest and captivate readers:

  • The psychology of curiosity: What drives our desire to explore and learn?
  • The lost city of Atlantis: Fact or fiction?
  • The mystery of the Bermuda Triangle: What lies beneath?
  • The science of dreams: Exploring the subconscious mind.
  • The enigma of crop circles: Hoax or unexplained phenomena?
  • The search for extraterrestrial life: Are we alone in the universe?
  • The ancient art of alchemy: Unlocking the secrets of transmutation.
  • The riddle of the Sphinx: Deciphering its ancient mysteries.
  • The power of intuition: How do we know what we know?
  • The quest for immortality: Is eternal life within reach?
  • The phenomenon of déjà vu: Exploring the mysteries of memory.
  • The art of illusion: How do magicians deceive our senses?
  • The allure of conspiracy theories: What drives our fascination with the unknown?
  • The secret language of symbols: Uncovering hidden meanings in art and culture.
  • The legend of the Loch Ness Monster: Myth or reality?
  • The paradox of time travel: Is it possible to journey to the past or future?
  • The enigmatic world of quantum physics: Exploring the mysteries of the subatomic realm.
  • The power of superstition: Why do we believe in luck and omens?
  • The science of laughter: Exploring the psychology and physiology of humor.
  • The allure of forbidden knowledge: Why are we drawn to the forbidden?

Curiosity essay topics Prompts

Here are 5 creative prompts to inspire your curiosity essay:

  • Imagine a world without curiosity. How would our lives be different?
  • Write about a time when your curiosity led you to a surprising discovery.
  • Choose a historical mystery that intrigues you and explore possible explanations.
  • If you could ask any question and receive a definitive answer, what would you ask?
  • Reflect on a topic or question that has always sparked your curiosity, and explore why it fascinates you.

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The Five Dimensions of Curiosity

  • Todd B. Kashdan,
  • David J. Disabato,
  • Fallon R. Goodman,
  • Carl Naughton

essay about being curious

How are you curious?

P sychologists have compiled a large body of research on the many benefits of curiosity. It enhances intelligence: In one study, highly curious children aged three to 11 improved their intelligence test scores by 12 points more than their least-curious counterparts did. It increases perseverance, or grit: Merely describing a day when you felt curious has been shown to boost mental and physical energy by 20% more than recounting a time of profound happiness. And curiosity propels us toward deeper engagement, superior performance, and more-meaningful goals: Psychology students who felt more curious than others during their first class enjoyed lectures more, got higher final grades, and subsequently enrolled in more courses in the discipline.

essay about being curious

New research shows that curiosity is vital to an organization’s performance—as are the particular ways in which people are curious and the experiences they are exposed to. This package examines how leaders can nurture curiosity throughout their organizations and ensure that it translates to success.

  • Todd B. Kashdan , Ph.D. is professor of psychology at George Mason University who studies well-being, psychological flexibility, curiosity, courage, and resilience and the author of Curious?,   The Upside of Your Dark Side , and The Art of Insubordination: How to Dissent and Defy Effectively (Avery, 2022). Take this quiz to match yourself with a principled rebel archetype.
  • DD David J. Disabato is a doctoral student in clinical psychology at George Mason University and a consultant with Time Inc. and Merck KGaA.
  • FG Fallon R. Goodman is a doctoral student in clinical psychology at George Mason University and a consultant with Time Inc. and Merck KGaA.
  • CN Carl Naughton is a linguist and an educational scientist who consults with Merck KGaA.

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Your chance of acceptance, your chancing factors, extracurriculars, how to express intellectual curiosity in college essays.

I want to write a college essay that highlights my intellectual curiosity and love for learning. Can anyone share some examples or tips on how to write an engaging essay on this topic? I'm a little stressed about getting this right, thanks!

While it is understandable that you want to showcase your intellectual curiosity in your college essay, it's important to choose a specific story or experience that best represents this aspect of your personality. Many college applicants would consider themselves intellectually curious, so it's crucial that your story is personal and detailed enough to show what makes your curiosity distinct. Here are a few tips and examples to guide you in writing an engaging essay on this topic:

1. Focus on a specific experience or realization: Rather than trying to cover every single instance where you've exhibited intellectual curiosity, choose one particular event, realization, or even a project that sparked your interest and led you to dive deeper into a subject. Use this experience as the focal point of your essay, and demonstrate how it showcases your innate love for learning.

Example: You encounter a challenging math problem that you are unable to solve initially, but rather than giving up, you devote your time and energy to working it out and advancing your math skills.

2. Show, don't tell: As with any essay, it's essential that you use vivid, descriptive language and anecdotes to show your intellectual curiosity, rather than simply stating that you have a desire for knowledge. Explain the process of learning or exploration, and describe the emotions you experienced as you pursued your interests.

Example: Describe the late nights spent reading research papers or attending seminars, the joy of uncovering a new concept, or the frustration of encountering an unfamiliar theorem and how you overcame it.

3. Discuss the impact and personal growth: To illustrate the broader importance of your intellectual curiosity, explain how your passion for learning has influenced your life and personal growth. Focus on the skills you've developed or the lessons you've learned, and make connections to your goals and aspirations for college - admissions officers need to understand why this story is relevant to understanding what kind of college student you'll be.

Example: By immersing yourself in independent research on a scientific topic that fascinates you, you discovered a potential career path or academic interest that you might otherwise not have considered, inspiring you to pursue advanced studies in that field.

Finally, consider either taking advantage of CollegeVine's Free Peer Essay Review Tool or submitting your essay for a paid review by an expert college admissions advisor through CollegeVine's marketplace. Sometimes, getting a more objective set of eyes on your essay is just the thing that takes it from good to great.

Remember, overall your college essay is an opportunity to showcase who you are as an individual, beyond test scores and grades. By providing specific examples and anecdotes, and relating your intellectual curiosity to your personal growth and future college experience, you can create an engaging essay that leaves a lasting impression on admissions officers.

Happy writing!

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Curiosity: The Force Within a Hungry Mind

Stimulate your students’ curiosity by encouraging valuable questions and tinkering, looking for teachable moments, and building lessons around current events and critical thinking.

A photo of a high school student working in a chemistry lab.

What makes children want to learn? According to research, it's the joy of exploration -- a hidden force that drives learning, critical thinking, and reasoning. We call this ability curiosity , and we recognize it in children when we see them exploring their environment, devouring books and information, asking questions, investigating concepts, manipulating data, searching for meaning, connecting with people and nature, and seeking new learning experiences.

The Heart of Lifelong Learning

Most teachers understand that curiosity supercharges learning. But they also know that many students can achieve high grades without being curious -- by understanding the system of test-taking and dutifully doing their homework. Curious children often spend a great deal of time reading and acquiring knowledge because they sense a gap between what they know and what they want to know -- not because they are motivated by grades. In fact, when kids are in curiosity's grip, they often forget the immediate goals at hand because they are preoccupied with learning.

If you suspect that curious kids fare better in careers and life, you're right, and for a variety of reasons. Research suggests that intellectual curiosity has as big of an effect on performance as hard work . When put together, curiosity and hard work account for success just as much as intelligence. Another study found that people who were curious about a topic retained what they learned for longer periods of time . And even more impressive, research has linked curiosity to a wide range of important adaptive behaviors , including tolerance of anxiety and uncertainty, positive emotions, humor, playfulness, out-of-box thinking, and a noncritical attitude -- all attributes associated with healthy social outcomes.

Curiosity is part of The Compass Advantage ™ (a model created for engaging families, schools, and communities in the principles of positive youth development) because it is at the heart of lifelong learning. Curiosity not only gives children an advantage in school, but today's business leaders agree that it is also at the heart of thriving organizations.

Compass with Curiosity highlighted and other points of Sociability, Resilience, Self-Awareness, Integrity, Resourcefulness, Creativity, and Empathy

Psychologists view curiosity as a life force, vital to happiness, intellectual growth, and well being. It is interconnected with each of the other abilities on the Compass -- sociability, resilience, self-awareness, integrity, resourcefulness, creativity, and empathy. Like most human abilities, curiosity also has a dark side. After all, it did kill the cat! And without proper nurturing by teachers and parents, unregulated curiosity can lead students down rabbit holes that waste time, obstruct goals, or damage health.

The greatest advantage of curiosity lies in its power to motivate learning in areas of life and work that are meaningful to the learner. It points students toward the knowledge, skills, relationships, and experiences that they need to live full and productive lives. Curiosity is one of the 8 Pathways to Every Student's Success .

10 Ways to Stimulate a Student's Curiosity

1. value and reward curiosity..

Often, the temptation is to reward students when their curiosity leads to a desired outcome or good grade. But it's more important to notice and reinforce curiosity when you see it in action. When you praise students by describing how their questions, explorations, and investigations are contributing to their own or classroom learning, you let them know that they are valued for their motivation, regardless of the grade they achieve.

2. Teach students how to ask quality questions.

Quality questions are a vital medium for curiosity. Google is great at finding answers but doesn't stimulate the formation of questions. Good questions contain "why," "what if," and "how." An excellent book for understanding the art of questioning is A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger.

3. Notice when kids feel puzzled or confused.

Is there a "teachable moment" that will spark a desire to search for answers? How can you invite students to see problems as mysteries waiting to be solved?

4. Encourage students to tinker.

Tinkering might be constructive play with feelings, concepts, ideas, and materials. How can students create a new widget, essay, blog article, poem, science experiment, service, or product from their explorations? Tinkering with materials, thoughts, and emotions stimulates curiosity and leads to innovative outcomes.

5. Spread the curiosity around.

Create opportunities for more-curious and less-curious students to work together in project-based learning . Curiosity is contagious in groups working toward a real-world common goal, helping to cross-pollinate questions and new ideas.

6. Use current events.

News reports can lead students to ask purposeful questions that help unearth what's beneath the surface of societal problems. According to research, asking "why" is the critical ingredient in unraveling these difficult conflicts. This often gets to the fundamental reason for why people disagree about solutions.

7. Teach students to be skeptics.

The term skeptic is derived from the Greek skeptikos , meaning "to inquire" or "to look around." A skeptic requires additional evidence before accepting someone's claims as true. He or she is willing to challenge the status quo with open-minded, deep questioning. Galileo was a skeptic. So was Steve Jobs.

8. Explore a variety of cultures and societies.

How is one culture or society uniquely different from another one? Encourage students to investigate their genetic or emotional links to other cultures. Why do they relate to certain beliefs or values that other societies hold?

9. Model curiosity.

You can do this in your respectful relationships with students by exploring their interests, expanding upon their ideas, and engaging them in meaningful dialogue about what matters most.

10. Encourage curiosity at home.

Help parents understand the importance of curiosity in their child's development and suggest ways that they can foster it at home. Supportive caregivers can have a tremendous impact on developing curiosity and other essential abilities.

How do you foster curiosity in your students? Please share in the comments section below.

The Benefits of Being Curious

Maria Ellora Cabbat

Maria Ellora Cabbat

The genius, Albert Einstein said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”  Why is curiosity important?  I believe that curiosity is the vehicle used by the open minded. It takes them to different places, allowing them to explore and discover different possibilities.  Here are some reasons why curiosity is beneficial and need to be cultivated.

Curiosity help us become better problem solvers . When we are curious, we are more resourceful.  We ask more questions. Questions such as, What can I do to be better?  What are different ways that I can use to solve this problem?  As a result, we naturally come up with interesting and innovative ideas.

Curiosity can also help us overcome our fears.  —People who are curious are not afraid of feeling uncomfortable and facing the unknown. They take action. They are more open to getting out of their comfort zones for the sake of learning more about what they are passionate about.

Curiosity helps us develop empathy . Instead of judging others, we can ask questions and understand where they are coming from. When we are curious, we are more open to exposing ourselves  to different ideas and cultures. As a result, our appreciation for life increases.

Curiosity makes us more knowledgeable.  The more knowledge we have, the more resources we have in helping others. What makes people smart like Einstein?  The man said it himself….he was passionately curious.  

Curiosity also leads to humility.   Humble people know that they don’t know all the answers. They are constantly learning. One of the most pleasing experiences in life is to be involved and have discourses with people who are humble.  They don’t try to prove you wrong. Instead, they come from a detached vantage point that helps you appreciate different perspectives.

Curiosity makes us more self-aware . In the personal development realm for example, curiosity entails the questioning of our beliefs, our values and our perceptions about life. You can ask yourself questions such as, “Is this belief true?  Is it self-imposed?  What belief can I replace it with for me to be more effective and be a better person?” When we are curious, we are more willing to experiment to see what works and what doesn’t. We want to find ways to improve our skills and be a better version of ourselves.   

What are some ways for us to develop more curiosity?

You may read a book. Attend events. Travel. Go hiking and explore the outdoors. Meditate and  see what is in your mind. Write on a journal. Instead of talking about yourself, ask people to talk about themselves. Listen to podcasts. Start a new hobby. The list is endless. The key is to engage yourself in activities that make you feel excited.

I encourage you to be a scientist in your own life. Be like an inquisitive child with an open mind, never losing that sense of wonder. Now my question to you is, “What lights up your curiosity?” 

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How to Write Stanford’s “Excited About Learning” Essay

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Johnathan Patin-Sauls and Vinay Bhaskara in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.

What’s Covered:

Choosing an idea vs. an experience, learning for the sake of learning, learning as a means to other ends, be specific.

Stanford University’s first essay prompt asks you to respond to the following:

“ The Stanford community is deeply curious and driven to learn in and out of the classroom. Reflect on an idea or experience that makes you genuinely excited about learning. (100-250 words)”

For this short answer question, your response is limited to a maximum of 250 words. In this article, we will discuss considerations for choosing to write about an idea or experience, ways to demonstrate a love or enthusiasm for learning, and why you should be as specific. For more information and guidance on writing the application essays for Stanford University, check out our post on how to write the Stanford University essays .

Regardless of if you choose either an idea or experience that makes you genuinely excited about learning as a topic, there are a few considerations for each.  

Most people gravitate towards writing about an idea. One challenge that arises with an idea-focused essay is that applicants who are passionate about an idea often become hyper focused on explaining the idea but neglect to connect this idea to who they are as a person and why this idea excites them. 

When writing about an experience, it is important to strike a balance between describing the experience and analyzing the impact of the experience on you, your goals, and your commitment to learning.

This essay question allows you to expand on your joy for learning and your genuine curiosity. Stanford is searching for students who are naturally curious and enjoy the process of learning and educating themselves. For example, a compelling essay could begin with a riveting story of getting lost while hiking the Appalachian Trail and describing how this experience led to a lifelong passion for studying primitive forms of navigation. 

There is a strong tendency among applicants to write about formal academic coursework, however, the most compelling essays will subvert expectations by taking the concept of learning beyond the classroom and demonstrating how learning manifests itself in unique contexts in your life.

If you’re someone for whom learning is a means to other ends, it is important that you convey a sense of genuine enthusiasm and purpose beyond, “I want to go to X school because it will help me get Y job for Z purpose.” You may be motivated to attend college to obtain a certain position and make a comfortable income, however these answers are not necessarily what admissions officers are looking for. Instead, it can be helpful to relate an idea or experience to something more personal to you.

Academic & Professional Trajectory

Consider relating the idea or experience you choose to a major, degree program, research initiative, or professor that interests you at Stanford. Then go beyond the academic context to explain how the idea or experience ties into your future career. 

For instance, if you are interested in the concept of universal health care, then you might describe your interest in applying to public health programs with faculty that specialize in national health care systems. You might then describe your long term career aspirations to work in the United States Senate on crafting and passing health care policy.

Personal Values & Experiences

Another way to tie the ideas in this essay back to a more personal topic is to discuss how the idea or experience informs who you are, how you treat others, or how you experience the world around you. 

You could also focus on an idea or experience that has challenged, frustrated, or even offended you, thereby reinforcing and further justifying the values you hold and your worldview.

Community Building & Social Connectedness

You may also explore how this idea or experience connects you to a particular community by helping you understand, build, and support members of the community. Stanford is looking to find students who will be engaged members of the student body and carry out the community’s core mission, values, and projects, so this essay can be an opportunity to highlight how you would contribute to Stanford. 

Be specific in your choice of idea or the way in which you describe an experience. For example, a response that focuses on the joys of learning philosophy is too broad to be particularly memorable or impactful. However, the mind-body problem looking at the debate concerning the relationship between thought and consciousness is a specific philosophical idea that lends itself to a rich discussion. 

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essay about being curious

Life's Little Mysteries

Why are humans so curious?

Curiosity is a hallmark of the human experience. But why?

Play can help children pursue and express their creativity.

The human craving to know and understand is the driving force behind our development as individuals and even our success as a species. But curiosity can also be dangerous, leading to stumbles or even downfalls, so why does this impulse so often compel us throughout life?

Put another way, why are humans so curious? And given curiosity's complexity, do scientists even have a definition for this innate drive?

Curiosity is so ingrained, it helps us learn as babies and survive as adults. As for the definition, there isn't one set in stone. Researchers across many disciplines are interested in curiosity, so it's no surprise there isn't a widely accepted definition of the term. William James, one of the first modern psychologists, called it "the impulse towards better cognition." Ivan Pavlov wrote that dogs (of course it was dogs) are curious about novel stimuli through the "what-is-it?" reflex that causes them to focus spontaneously on something new that comes into their environment.

Related: Why haven't all primates evolved into humans?

While pinning down a definition has proven tricky, "the general consensus is it's some means of information gathering," Katherine Twomey, a lecturer in language and communicative development at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, told Live Science. 

Psychologists also agree that curiosity isn't about satisfying an immediate need, like hunger or thirst; rather, it's intrinsically motivated. 

Making our way in the world

Curiosity encompasses such a large set of behaviors, there probably isn’t any single "curiosity gene" that makes humans wonder about the world and explore their environment. That said, curiosity does have a genetic component. Genes and the environment interact in many complex ways to shape individuals and guide their behavior, including their curiosity. 

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Researchers did identify changes to a specific gene type that is more common in individual songbirds that are especially keen on exploring their environment, according to a 2007 study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Biological Science . In humans, mutations in this gene, known as DRD4 , have been associated with a person’s propensity to seek novelty.

Regardless of their genetic makeup, infants have to learn an incredible amount of information in a short window of time, and curiosity is one of the tools humans have found to accomplish that gargantuan task.

"If infants weren't curious, they'd never learn anything and development wouldn't happen, Twomey said. 

Hundreds of studies show that infants prefer novelty. In a classic 1964 study , a psychologist showed that infants between 2 months and 6 months old grew less and less interested in a complex visual pattern the more they looked at it. A 1983 study in the journal Developmental Psychology of slightly older children (ages 8 months and 12 months old) indicated that once babies got used to familiar toys, they preferred new ones, a scenario that caregivers likely know all too well. 

This preference for novelty has a name: perceptual curiosity. It's what motivates non-human animals, human infants and probably human adults to explore and seek out new things before growing less interested in them after continued exposure. 

As these studies show, infants do this all the time. Babbling is one example. 

"The exploration they do is systematic babbling ," Twomey said. When most babies are just a few months old, they start making vowel and repetitive, speech-like sounds as they learn how to speak. Babbling demonstrates the utility of perceptual curiosity. It begins as a completely random exploration of what their vocal anatomy can do.

Eventually "they'll hit on something and think 'That sounds like something my mum or dad would do,'" she said. And then they do it again. And again. 

But it isn't just infants. Crows are famous for using perceptual curiosity as a means of learning. For instance, the drive to explore their environment probably helps crows learn to fashion the simple tools they use to fish larvae out of hard-to-reach crevices. Moreover, experiments with robots programmed to be curious have shown that exploration is a powerful way to adapt to a new environment.

Making the world work for us

Another kind of curiosity is distinctively human. Psychologists call it epistemic curiosity, and it's about seeking knowledge and eliminating uncertainty. Epistemic curiosity emerges later in life and might require complex language, Twomey said. 

For Agustín Fuentes, a professor of anthropology at Princeton University, this form of curiosity has set humans — and probably all members of the genus Homo — apart from other animals and paved the way for us to populate nearly every corner of the world, inventing technologies from hand axes to smart phones. 

"Humans, in our distinctive lineage, went beyond simply tweaking nature to imagining and inventing whole new possibilities that emerge from that kind of curiosity," Fuentes told Live Science. 

Related: Can you learn anything while you sleep?

But curiosity comes with a cost. Just because humans can imagine something doesn't mean it will work, at least not at first. In some situations, the stakes are low and failure is a healthy part of growth. For instance, many babies are perfectly proficient crawlers, but they decide to try walking because there’s more to see and do when they stand upright, according to Twomey. But this milestone comes at a small cost. A study of 12- to 19-month-olds learning how to walk documented that these children fell down a lot. Seventeen times per hour, to be exact. But walking is faster than crawling, so this "motivates expert crawlers to transition to walking," the researchers wrote in the 2012 study, published in the journal Psychological Science .

— Why don't we remember being babies?

— Why do people have different personalities?

— Why can't we remember our dreams?

Sometimes, however, testing out a new idea can lead to disaster.

"Curiosity probably led to the vast majority of human populations going extinct," Fuentes said. 

For instance, the Inuit of the Arctic regions of Greenland, Canada and Alaska, and the Sámi people of Europe’s northern reaches have "created incredible modes to deal with the challenges" of living in northern climates, but "what we forget about are the probably tens of thousands of populations that tried and failed to make it" in those challenging landscapes, he said. 

Ultimately, curiosity is about survival. Not all curious humans lived to pass their penchant for exploration on to their descendants, but those who did helped create a species that can't help but think, "Huh, I wonder what would happen if ..." 

Originally published on Live Science.

Grant Currin is a freelance science journalist based in Brooklyn, New York, who writes about Life's Little Mysteries and other topics for Live Science. Grant also writes about science and media for a number of publications, including Wired, Scientific American, National Geographic, the HuffPost and Hakai Magazine, and he is also a contributor to the Discovery podcast Curiosity Daily. Grant received a bachelor's degree in Political Economy from the University of Tennessee. 

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essay about being curious

Gary Klein Ph.D.

How to Harness Curiosity

Curious you're not the only one..

Posted December 3, 2020

This post is a collaborative effort with Devorah Klein, a cognitive psychologist whose research interests include system and organizational design.

Curiosity is a powerful force in our lives. But what is it? How does it work? And how can we do a better job of harnessing its power? In this post, we explore each of these questions.

What is it? Very simply, it is wanting to know something. It may sound trivial, yet curiosity can exert intense force on us—we often work hard to satisfy our curiosity despite being hungry, thirsty, or sleepy .

And curiosity can stop us in our tracks—even when we’re goal-oriented, perhaps writing an essay like this one, if we are foolish enough to leave a web browser open and the click-bait appears, off we go down the rabbit hole.

But curiosity can also be quite brittle. Loewenstein (1994) observed that in a supermarket check-out line we may become intensely curious about the latest news regarding a movie star’s marital woes, but this curiosity disappears as soon as we step forward and away from the tabloids.

How does it work? Researchers have studied curiosity for decades. (See Loewenstein for an excellent literature summary.)

Different things can trigger our curiosity, as shown in the diagram.

Gary Klein

  • A violated expectancy—something surprises us, something we didn’t expect and cannot explain.
  • A puzzle we’re trying to solve or a mystery novel that is gripping us.
  • Missing or even inaccessible information—Loewenstein points out how we strain to eavesdrop on conversations or yearn to know what made someone chuckle while reading. We get frustrated by the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon, maddened by our inability to remember something we know that we know.
  • A chance to learn something new or to probe the part of a story that doesn’t seem plausible to us so that we gather more information and make assumptions. Counterfactuals fascinate us. What would have happened in history if (fill in the blank)?

Loewenstein’s own model features an information gap between what we know vs. what we want to know. Underlying all of these triggers, curiosity is driven by our tendency for sensemaking—to find order, to see patterns and intentions.

Blocking curiosity. Unfortunately, plenty of things can get in the way.

  • Overconfidence—we may think we know more than we do.
  • Being so self-absorbed that we are unaware of our surroundings.
  • Negative emotions such as guilt , fear , and anxiety , and external pressures such as threats and punishment , all can diminish our curiosity.
  • Getting an external reward rather than working on a task because it interests us.

Instructors often stifle curiosity without meaning to, by asking yes/no questions, or insisting that there are right answers, or emphasizing memorization, or being too quick to correct student mistakes, or paying more attention to what a trainee is doing rather than why. Instructors can flood students with details, introducing too much complexity too early, which can unnerve students who may give up and resort to memorization.

Sometimes, instructors discourage questions and class discussions because they want to get through all the material. And there’s no shortage of instructors who enjoy making students feel stupid, perhaps using ridicule.

Surprisingly, teachers can inhibit curiosity by providing explanations that are too complete, leaving no space for students to engage in self-explanation .

Harnessing curiosity. Good teachers have lots of ways to make their students curious: You can pose questions. You can present situations with unknown outcomes—and you can make the curiosity more intense by asking students to make predictions. You can reduce anxiety by showing students that the gap in their knowledge isn’t out of reach. You can quiz students about how a process works instead of just having them learn its steps.

essay about being curious

Counter-intuitively, it may not be a good idea to call for students to ask questions! Too often, that leads to an uncomfortable silence or a shallow question desperately posed to end that silence. It’s better to pose questions to the students, which primes the pump.

Perhaps the most important thing teachers can do is to be curious themselves—to wonder what caused a student to make a mistake. And that takes a shift in mindset, from being critical of mistakes to being curious about them.

Loewenstein, G. (1994). The psychology of curiosity: A review and reinterpretation. Psychological Bulletin, 116 , 75-98.

Gary Klein Ph.D.

Gary Klein, Ph.D., is a senior scientist at MacroCognition LLC. His most recent book is Seeing What Others Don't: The remarkable ways we gain insights.

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Engineering Passion

Creative Engineering Mindset: Creativity & Curiosity in Engineering

essay about being curious

In engineering, it all begins with ‘Why’, ‘Why not’, ‘How this works’, ‘If this’, ‘Imagine if’… creative thoughts and the sense of curiosity has always motivated engineers to build amazing things that we have such as electricity, vehicles, medicine, buildings and many other things we take for granted each day. Behind every innovative idea is an engineer.

The reason many people are attracted to a career in engineering in the first place is the fascination and passion for how things work. Engineering is all about problem-solving, finding better solutions and this requires talent to think outside the box and to envision a number of alternative solutions and scenarios.

The world is currently facing major challenges such as rapid population growth and climate change concerns, for engineers, it’s important more than ever to find and produce creative and innovative solutions to the problems we face. Probably this is one of the reasons we are seeing an increase in the number of schools that offer design alongside engineering.

Why is Curiosity Important for the Engineering Mindset?

Significance of Curiosity for Engineering Mindset

Curiosity is the ability and desire to search for things that interest you or to imagine the concepts and images that aren’t present yet. Being curious will lead you to poke around and figure out something, and this is vital when it comes to succeeding at an engineering job.

The rapid growth and technological advancement have brought new challenges for engineers that they’ve never seen before. From the impact of climate change, fossil fuels to food and medical shortages, engineers in various fields are going to be integral to providing solutions across several industries. Emphasizing the significance of creative thoughts and curiosity for engineering mindset should be a key priority for engineers of the future.

Creativity in Engineering

Creativity in Engineering

Throughout the history of humankind and civilization, there have been plenty of innovative ideas in science and technology that have changed the way we do things in life. Here are just a few examples of creativity and innovation in modern engineering:

3D-Printed Parts for All

3D-Printed Parts for All

On an industrial scale, 3D printing with shiny alloys isn’t the next big thing. It’s just big. Now companies and industries can forget the seven-figure monster machines for something smaller and faster. This new six-figure production system uses an inkjet-like technology to turn powder and a binding agent into whatever cold, hard widget you might desire, up to 100 times faster than the laser methods used in existing systems.

Train Tracks that Float

Train Tracks that Float

Rails need to stay straight, but floating bridges bob and sway with the water underneath. Not a good match? Not a problem for Sound Transit’s new project. On this East Link Bridge, which will be completed in the year 2023 steel platforms and flexible bearings will let light-rail tracks stay in line. By the year 2030, 50,000 travelers a day will ride 148,000-pound trains at full speed across the water from Seattle to Mercer Island, Washington.

Also read:   Top 10 Largest Engineering Construction Projects

Behind every new product, there is a team of engineers, creating, researching, and designing services that make our lives more convenient and easy.

Unleash your Creativity Through Exercise

Unleash your Creativity Through Exercise

As an engineer, you can do exercises to invoke the creativity in you, here are some quick exercises to keep your creative brain active to aid in your day’s work:

Brain It On! – Physics Puzzles

Brain It On! - Physics Puzzles Game

A great game with tough challenges that require creative solutions and strategies using only basic drawing tools, to pass on to the next challenge! Draw shapes to solve challenging physics puzzles. This game has been developed by Aaron Lake, an indie game developer. This game will make you think of innovative ways to tackle a problem.

Although focused on words, crosswords require you to think outside the box and re-think riddles. Test your ability to think of alternative solutions to problems.

Playing these kinds of strategic games is just a way to provoke creative thoughts and give your brain some good exercise.

Creative Engineering Mindset

Identifying a problem and finding multiple solutions or generating new ideas is a key part of an engineer’s career. By shaping these skills from the very start of your engineering education or career, you’re building the creative mindset that all engineers should struggle for. Never stop learning and always ask why and be curious as quoted:

“Every single day, I’m curious about everything. Curiosity is finding answers to things.” – Mickey Draxler

Creativity and curiosity are the two most important traits for an engineering mindset. Always try to think differently and provide innovative solutions.

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essay about being curious

Greater Good Science Center • Magazine • In Action • In Education

Four Ways to Inspire Humble Curiosity in Your Students

In a 2018 study , researchers asked elementary students about their experiences as “curious learners” at school. But many students expressed surprise. “No one is curious about what we learn in class. We just need to do whatever the teachers tell us to do,” one said.

In fact, children in this study didn’t necessarily see the link between curiosity and learning in the first place—even perceiving their own questions to be disruptive and unwelcome.

At the same time, we adults aren’t always making much room for uncertainty, openness, and exploration either—whether we’re arguing about the merits of social and emotional learning, anti-racism curricula, or the latest COVID policy at school. In a 2022 Education Week survey , teachers, principals, and district leaders claim that over half of politicians, parents, and guardians are engaging in more black-and-white thinking than they did three years ago (and under half of these educators concede that they are, too.). 

essay about being curious

But there is hope: Despite the limitations of our school environments, today’s students still seem to be more open-minded thinkers than we adults are. So, how do we help them maintain their openness and free up spaces for learning and understanding rather than rigid forms of thinking? Research on the character strength of curiosity—and its sister strength, humility—can help us feed authentic learning, human connection, and personal growth. 

How curiosity and humility help us learn

Research suggests that intellectual humility and curiosity go hand in hand, and it makes sense: When we’re curious , we naturally want to learn more (“Who is the new student who just joined my class?”). We seek out new information or greater understanding when we experience uncertainty or a gap in our knowledge (“How does this robot actually work?”).

And if we’re intellectually humble about that uncertainty, we can also admit that we don’t have all the answers—that our beliefs may be faulty and our understandings incomplete. In fact, researchers link intellectual humility with the desire to seek out new information and experiences (“I don’t know, but I want to find out!”).

In addition, people who are more curious, open-minded, and humble are more likely to persist through a challenge (like an ethics debate, a confounding science experiment, or a contentious group project) because they view the natural stops and starts as opportunities for growth—rather than failures or mistakes. In a recent study of 3,000 students from large cities in 11 countries, researchers found that curiosity (and persistence) most strongly predicted academic success in both math and reading for both children and teens.

Studies also suggest that intellectual humility may inspire learners to seek out challenges and make the effort to overcome them—another route to greater success at school. Humility can free us from our egos , leading to more open-minded and flexible thinking , less defensiveness , and a willingness to learn from others’ perspectives . In other words, if a child approaches a seemingly daunting math problem with both a sense of uncertainty and a desire to learn, she has nothing to lose—especially when she knows that she can explore multiple pathways to a solution with the support of her teacher and peers.

Together, curiosity and humility can stir our passion for learning while naturally opening us up to others’ perspectives, but how do we draw on curiosity and foster a sense of humility in our classrooms? Here are four evidence-based strategies for encouraging humble curiosity at school.

Practice listening with fascination

In my review of research, I discovered what I believe to be the clearest link between curiosity and humility—it’s listening. In fact, researcher Michael Lehmann and his team recently developed a listening practice that led to greater humility. Here’s the key: When study participants listened with curiosity, “as if the speaker was telling them the most interesting things that they had ever heard,” then both members of the pair experienced an increase in humility (with the listener reporting greater humility than the speaker).

Consider what it’s like to have a parent, friend, relative, or colleague offer you their full attention. What does it feel like when they appear absolutely fascinated by what you have to say? For me, it’s disarming. My body relaxes, I feel more at ease and energized—I feel more able to be “me.” If we want our students to become more comfortable with uncertainties and intellectual challenges, we need to create spaces that feel supportive, encourage psychological safety , and enhance a sense of trust.

To try out an adaptation of Lehmann’s practice, follow the steps in Good Listening: A Path Towards Greater Humility , where students discuss the characteristics of good listeners, practice curiosity and interest while discussing a relevant course topic, and then write down three things they learned from their partner after listening deeply.

More Listening Practices

If you are interested in sharing additional listening practices with your colleagues or students, consider the following: Active Listening (for adults), Mindful Listening for Students (for younger students), or Listening to Music Mindfully (for older students).

In my own work with educational professionals, I also find that carving up segments of time (typically five to 10 minutes per person) for each member of a pair (or triad) to speak without interruption or judgment can be humbling and deeply gratifying for everyone. Listeners honor the speakers’ full speaking time. Then, they respond with a “mirroring” of the speaker’s words, followed by genuine, open-ended questions. I learned this simple but powerful listening process decades ago during a retreat series hosted by the Center for Courage and Renewal .

Emphasize the value of questions

Of course, if we’re deeply curious listeners, we also tend to ask more authentic questions, and genuine questions reflect humble curiosity. Questions that invite exploration tend to start with the words “how” or “why” or “can you describe…”? They open the conversation rather than closing it down with a yes or a no—or those unfortunate leading questions like “Why weren’t you angry?” or “Didn’t you consider the other option?”

If you want to foster that sense of joyful exploration in your classroom, questions are powerful tools of your trade. 

In a recent study , children who read with a “curious” (and furry) robot teacher posing questions and wonderings scored higher on “curiosity and exploration tasks” when compared to students who learned similar information from the same “non-curious” robot. What did the robot say? Things like “I wonder what would happen if…” or “I wonder what you will do now” or “This is a great word to know. What is it?”

Bottom line, the language we use as teachers and learners can significantly influence our curiosity and attitudes about learning.

Based on their curiosity research, Jamie Jirout and his colleagues created a classroom observational tool called the Curiosity in Classrooms Framework where they highlight simple ways to elevate questions in our classrooms. Here are a few:

  • Write your learning objectives as questions (“Students will understand photosynthesis as a process” becomes “What is photosynthesis? How can we show each other that we understand how it works?”).
  • Generate more sentence stems and questions as regular journal or discussion prompts. (“When I feel successful at school, I ….” or “What does active listening look like? How do you know that someone is really listening to you?”).
  • Model using more open-ended versus closed questions as you facilitate discussions (e.g., “How did you solve #5?” rather than “What is the answer to #5?”).
  • Prompt more student questions, in general (e.g., rather than asking students if they have any more questions for you, ask them, “Who can share more questions we might ask to learn about this [character, science experiment, historical event]?”).

Draw on awe to encourage exploration

If questions can spark curiosity, “awe” can foster a sense of humility . We tend to experience awe when we encounter something larger than ourselves that challenges our sense of the world—and things like nature, music, art, and architecture typically evoke a sense of awe.

A star-filled overnight camping trip, a rock concert, or an online visit to Google Earth can inspire awe, making us feel smaller, more open to others’ perspectives, more curious, and even more generous. People who savor awe some experiences also tend to have a more balanced view of their strengths and weaknesses, and studies show that their friends tend to rate them as more humble than others.

Here are a few prompts to elicit awe—and an appreciation for wonder—in your classroom (drawn from Jirout and Sharon Zumbrunn’s classroom research).

  • Slow down to experience awe: “Take a few minutes to observe this [image, video clip, piece of art]. What do you notice? What do you feel?”
  • Prompt your students to identify a wider range of perspectives or problem-solving pathways: “Who saw or did something different?” “Can you share another way to approach this challenge?”
  • Draw on awe to encourage exploration of new ideas, materials, and ways of thinking: “This is amazing. How can you find out more?”

Normalize uncertainty

Although awe can be a beautiful experience or feeling, we certainly aren’t socialized to revel in humility—particularly in Western cultures. Admitting you don’t know means you aren’t in control. Even my handy Microsoft Word thesaurus associates the word “humble” with words like “meek,” “groveling,” and “humiliate.”

Psychologist Martin Covington reminds that a looming fear of failure directly influences our sense of self-worth, a fundamental belief in our own value . If we don’t get more comfortable with a little uncertainty, however, we will keep defaulting to intellectual boxing rings in a world overrun with unsolicited opinions.

So, how do you help kids get comfortable with uncertainty? You begin by modeling it. “I don’t know the answer to that question. Where can we find it?” “Sometimes I lose my train of thought when I’m trying to solve a problem or read a paragraph. I get confused, too, and that’s part of the process. How can we figure this out together?”

When we create a climate where students feel safe making mistakes and not knowing the answers, we make room for humility—and a desire to learn more. Then, humble curiosity can free us up to try harder and take a few more risks. If we believe we can learn more, grow, and change (at the heart of a “growth mindset”), we will be more likely to, nevertheless, persist.

essay about being curious

Expanding Awareness of the Science of Intellectual Humility

This article is part of our three-year GGSC project to raise awareness about intellectual humility research and its implications.

In a recent study , elementary-aged children who learned how to solve puzzles with a “peer” robot called “Tega” ended up agreeing more strongly with growth mindset beliefs when compared to other students. What did Tega say? Things like “I will choose [this puzzle] because it looks challenging,” “I’m not afraid of challenge. I like it,” or “You tried hard. That’s what matters.”

It’s much safer to believe you know exactly how to do something—or why others do (or say) the things they do—but it doesn’t necessarily lead to intellectual growth or better relationships. If we believe that our ideas can’t evolve and people cannot change, we fall right back into fixed and rigid thinking, which can wall us off from each other.

Curiosity, along with a healthy dose of humility, opens us up to explore, learn, and grow. And it gives others the chance to do the same.

About the Author

Headshot of Amy L. Eva

Amy L. Eva, Ph.D. , is the associate education director at the Greater Good Science Center. As an educational psychologist and teacher educator with over 25 years in classrooms, she currently writes, presents, and leads online courses focused on student and educator well-being, mindfulness, and courage. Her new book, Surviving Teacher Burnout: A Weekly Guide To Build Resilience, Deal with Emotional Exhaustion, and Stay Inspired in the Classroom, features 52 simple, low-lift strategies for enhancing educators’ social and emotional well-being.

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essay about being curious

Does curiosity make you read more hard news? How about anxiety?

Why do people read the news?

To journalists, that may sound like a stupid question. We read news because it’s critical to democracy! Because it’s the fascinating narrative of human existence! Because it’s a daily heroic tale of reporters uncovering corruption, malfeasance, and grift!

But to normies, it’s sometimes a real puzzle. News is an endless slog of depressing stuff — murders and international crises and social ills without easy solutions. Most of it has no direct impact on your life, and even when it does, it’s rare that you can take any action to do much about it. People have an infinite set of alternative distractions in their pocket; there are plenty of ways to fill everyone’s personal content hole without the words “Alito,” “Biden,” or “Trump.”

And how do the reasons we read the news line up with the reasons we say we read news? Do we claim dedication to noble civic virtues when all we really want is true crime podcasts? Do we read high-brow journalism on its merits or just so we can look smart to our peers? This last question was well explored in Armisen, Brownstein, et al. (2011) :

It’s also addressed in a new paper from Chiara Valli , Ernesto de León , and Mykola Makhortykha , researchers at the universities of Bern and Amsterdam . It looks at how the ways we consume news doesn’t always line up with the ways we say we consume news. The title is “ Personality and political news consumption online: A comparison between self-reports and webtracking data ” and it’s in the journal Personality and Individual Difference . Here’s the abstract, emphases mine.

Research has explored the links between personality and political news consumption, resulting in mixed results that vary across platforms. One potential reason for these inconclusive patterns might be that previous work has exclusively relied on self-reported measures of political news consumption. Considering that personality has been linked to biased response behavior in the past, we investigate to what extent the relationship is affected by potential measurement errors associated with different capturing methods. To do so, we introduce an innovative measurement technique capturing actual internet use through webtracking. While we do not find strong evidence that personality is systematically related to over- or underestimating one’s political news consumption, the comparison between the behavioral webtracking measure and self-reported news consumption nevertheless reveals significant differences: notably, openness is positively associated with self-reported online news consumption, but this relationship does not hold in the webtracking data. Instead, when using behavioral measures, neuroticism is a better predictor of political news consumption — an association not observed in the self-reported data . Our insights refine our understanding of the interplay between personality and online political news consumption and enhance the broader discourse on survey response behaviors linked to personality.

Let’s take a step back. There are lots of ways to measure and measure personality traits. One of the most used among academics is called the Big Five , also called the Five-Factor Model. (Think of it as a Myers-Briggs that can hold up to peer review.) The model measures five traits that can be summarized thusly:

  • openness to experience (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious)
  • conscientiousness (efficient/organized vs. extravagant/careless)
  • extraversion (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved)
  • agreeableness (friendly/compassionate vs. critical/judgmental)
  • neuroticism (sensitive/nervous vs. resilient/confident)

In terms of news and journalism, the most interesting for me has always been openness to experience . After all, journalism is a profession based on openness to experience. Reporters set out to learn new things every day; they dig in places no one else has thought to look; they talk to people with specific expert knowledge; and they try to then share all the new stuff they’ve learned with an audience.

(If you want to read more about the how openness to experience and other Big Five values relate to our current political state of affairs, I’d recommend Prius Or Pickup? How the Answers to Four Simple Questions Explain America’s Great Divide , a 2018 book by the UNC political scientists Marc Hetherington and Jonathan Weiler .)

People who score high on “openness to experience” are among the best news consumers imaginable. As the authors write, they “tend to embrace new ideas and perspectives…are more attentive to politics , spend more time consuming news , and have diverse news environments .” When New York Times CEO Meredith Kopit Levien describes their overarching strategy as becoming “the essential subscription for every curious person seeking to understand and engage with the world,” she means people who are open to experience. (And who want to open their wallets.) The evidence of effects of the other Big Four on news consumption is more muddled, so Valli, de León, and Makhortykha begin with a single hypothesis: “Openness is positively associated with political news consumption online.”

The authors looked at a sample of 378 Germans, around the time of federal elections there. Each was given a survey instrument designed to measure the Big Five. They were also all asked about their consumption of political news online as well as their levels of political interest and political knowledge.

But they were also all asked to install a temporary browser plugin that would note every website they visited and send the URLs back to researchers. In other words, there would now be two interesting data points for each person: how much political news they said they consumed and how much they actually consumed.

What did they find? Well, first they repeated a finding familiar to anyone who looks at self-reported news consumption data: People lie. Or, to be more generous, people consistently overestimate how much they consume just about every kind of “hard” news. When asked on how many days a week they consume political news online, the average answer in the sample was 3.45 days. The average measured in the web browser sample was just 1.09 days. 1 In all, 70% of people overestimated their consumption. Here’s a chart comparing people’s self-reported estimate (the left bar in each pair) versus the browser data (right bars):

essay about being curious

And here’s another one showing how many individual political news stories each subject visited. Note the usual extreme power-law distribution: The majority of people consumed zero political news stories, but there are also a few news-junkie outliers in the long tail. (The authors note this chart, “for better visibility,” omits one person who consumed 1,169 political news stories. I hope that person is doing well.)

essay about being curious

But what about the Big Five? When looking at the self-reported numbers, people with high openness to experience really do consume more political news, as predicted: “Those scoring highest on openness consume political news on approximately 2.6 more days a week than those scoring lowest on this trait.” Openness was an even better predictor of consumption than higher educational levels, which are a well-established influence on news habits.

But these are self-reported numbers , remember. How often people say they consume news. What happens when you look at the real data taken from people’s browsers?

In contrast to the previous model, openness is no longer associated with political news consumption…Yet, neuroticism seems negatively related to webtracked news consumption. While this effect slightly fails to reach the significance level in the full period, it is more pronounced in the post-election period. For this latter period, the average news consumption in the webtracked data decreases by approximately one day per week for individuals with high versus low neuroticism.

In other words, people who have high levels of openness say they consume a lot more news — but when you look at their online history, they actually don’t.

Meanwhile, people high on neuroticism — people who score as more “sensitive/nervous” than “resilient/confident” — say they consume a roughly average amount of political news. But in reality, they consume less — especially in a period just after a big election.

Here’s a chart showing the self-reported consumption (the top line for each Big Five trait) and the actual browser-derived consumption (the second line in each).

essay about being curious

Caveats: This is only one study, and Germans might just be weird. But I find this fascinating — especially since we Americans have been going through a much larger ad hoc experiment on news consumption patterns the past few years. Was the boom in digital news audiences (and subscriptions) during Donald Trump’s presidency driven by people desperate for new intel on a confusing world? Has the concurrent boom in news avoidance been driven by rising anxiety about politics? Why do some people respond to the same situation by hyperconsuming news, while others look for a blanket to hide under? Here are the authors:

First, in line with expectations, we find that openness is positively associated with self-reported political news consumption online. This effect disappears in the webtracking data, however. One plausible explanation for this discrepancy is that the consumption of political news satisfies people’s self-image as it signals intellectual curiosity, even if their actual behavior does not fully reflect this claim. While we do not have a definite answer to this conundrum, our findings challenge the notion that openness is the primary personality driver of online political news consumption. At the same time, we find a negative association between neuroticism and online political news consumption in the webtracking data. This aligns with the idea that neurotics circumvent political information to alleviate psychological distress. Similar to openness, however, this trend lacks consistency between the measures. As neurotics tend to be more anxious about negative evaluations of others, one could argue that neurotic individuals are hesitant to accurately report their (low) consumption of political news due to a social desirability bias. An alternative explanation could be that neurotic individuals are simply not aware of their avoidance tendencies and that their aversion to political news could be driven by an unconscious desire to protect themselves from potential distress. When asked about their political news consumption in self-reports, neurotic individuals may, thus, not accurately recall their avoidance behaviors.

The effects of personality on hard news consumption are, as I said, pretty muddled. (Do the extraverted consume more news as fuel for discussing it with other people? Or do introverts consume more news because it’s typically a solitary activity? Do people high in conscientiousness feel a civic duty to know more about their community — or are they turned off by news stories that focus on what’s broken?)

The one relationship that’s been the most confirmed has been about openness to experience being tied to more news consumption. But this paper raises the possibility that’s just what they say, not what they do. These psychographics are important to news companies selling subscriptions, politicians seeking votes, and communities sustaining democracies — we need more research to help figure it out.

The discrepancies identified between the self-reported and the behavioral measures highlight the critical importance of rethinking how we examine personality effects. Although our investigation is limited to online political news consumption, the implications of our findings could extend to a variety of other behaviors. The demand for more comprehensive methods extends far beyond the boundaries of personality research. In the field of political psychology, there is a widespread search for innovative methodological approaches including neurological, psychophysiological, and behavioral measures to capture the psychological underpinning of political behavior. Following this call, we encourage future research to go beyond self-reported measures to get more objective insights into how psychological processes influence how citizens interact with the political world.
  • It should be noted they could have been getting political news on another device or in another browser.  ↩︎

Cite this article Hide citations

Benton, Joshua. "Does curiosity make you read more hard news? How about anxiety?." Nieman Journalism Lab . Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, 4 Jun. 2024. Web. 6 Jun. 2024.

Benton, J. (2024, Jun. 4). Does curiosity make you read more hard news? How about anxiety?. Nieman Journalism Lab . Retrieved June 6, 2024, from

Benton, Joshua. "Does curiosity make you read more hard news? How about anxiety?." Nieman Journalism Lab . Last modified June 4, 2024. Accessed June 6, 2024.

{{cite web     | url =     | title = Does curiosity make you read more hard news? How about anxiety?     | last = Benton     | first = Joshua     | work = [[Nieman Journalism Lab]]     | date = 4 June 2024     | accessdate = 6 June 2024     | ref = {{harvid|Benton|2024}} }}

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essay about being curious

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  • Published: 24 May 2024

For the rural curious: mixed methods evaluation of a rural pharmacy practice elective

  • Timothy P. Stratton 1  

BMC Medical Education volume  24 , Article number:  573 ( 2024 ) Cite this article

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As of 2020, 20% of people residing in the United States of America (U.S.) lived in rural communities. Despite rural residents tending to be older, poorer, and having greater disease burden than their urban counterparts, the number of rural primary care providers continues to decline. Nearly 66% of U.S. Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas are designated as rural. Pharmacists can help address this shortage of rural primary care providers, often serving as providers of first-contact care; however, only 12% of U.S. pharmacists practice in rural communities. To help address this gap, in 2022 an elective Rural Pharmacy course was created at the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy by a faculty member who has rural practice experience.

The course combines formal lectures, guest presentations by rural pharmacists and student interviews with additional rural pharmacists. For the 42 students enrolled in the course in 2022 and 2023, non-parametric statistics were used to compare the percentage of students who were raised in rural communities or who otherwise had extensive exposure to rural, and compare student interest ratings (1 to 7) about practicing/living rural at the beginning and end of the course. Students also wrote end-of-course reflection papers, commenting on the course and their interviews with rural pharmacists.

Across both years, 45% of the enrolled students had previous experience in rural communities. The net change in Rural Interest scores among students completing both questionnaires was + 5 in 2022 and + 2 in 2023, both non-significant differences. The largest shifts in student interest were from “Not Sure” at the start of the course to “Interested” or “Not Interested” at the end of the course, and from “Interested” to “Very Interested.” In their reflection papers nearly 60% of students reported being most impressed by their interviews with rural pharmacists.


A course addressing the benefits and challenges of practicing pharmacy in rural communities was well-received by pharmacy students. Even students who have little interest in living in a rural community can benefit from being introduced to rural culture, enabling them to provide more culturally-responsive care for patients from rural communities.

Peer Review reports


The Unites States (U.S.) Census Bureau redefined “rural” for the 2020 census as communities with populations of fewer than 5,000 people (fewer than 2,000 housing units) and located more than 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from a high-density urban area. Based on this revised definition, 20% of the U.S. population in 2020 lived in rural communities [ 1 ]. The percentage of rural residents varied greatly by region, with only 11% of people in the West Region residing in rural areas, followed by 16% in the Northeast Region, 24% in the South Region and 26% in the Midwest Region [ 2 ]. At the extremes, fewer than 6% of people in California lived in rural areas, while nearly 65% of Vermont residents lived in rural areas [ 1 ]. In contrast, as of 2021 the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that only 12% of the nation’s pharmacists practiced in nonmetro (rural) communities [ 3 ].

On average, rural residents tend to be older [ 4 ], poorer [ 5 ], experience greater disease burden [ 6 ] and lack health insurance or be underinsured [ 7 ] than residents of urban communities. The average age and disease burden among rural residents is increasing due to outmigration of young adults from rural to urban communities and the in-migration of older adults to rural communities following retirement [ 4 ]. Yet as the proportion of older residents in rural communities continues to increase, the availability of primary care providers in rural communities continues to decrease. Nearly 66% of Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas in 2023 are designated as rural [ 8 ]. Pharmacists can be part of the solution to address the existing and anticipated shortage of primary care providers in rural communities [ 9 ]. Rural pharmacists often serve as “providers of first-contact care” for patients who are seeking to self-treat a health condition [ 10 ]. Where self-treatment is inappropriate, the pharmacist is in a position to refer the patient to appropriate professional care.

This paper describes a new course taught in the Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program in the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy that introduces students to the unique benefits and challenges of practicing pharmacy in rural communities.

One college, two campuses

The University of Minnesota (UMN) is a public, research-intensive (Carnegie R1) institution. The UMN College of Pharmacy opened on the Minneapolis campus in 1892 [ 11 ]. Prior to 2003, the College of Pharmacy included four departments: Experimental & Clinical Pharmacology, Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmaceutics, and Pharmacy Care & Health Systems. However, to address a shortage of pharmacists in Greater Minnesota – counties outside of the seven-county Minneapolis-St. Paul Twin Cities Metro Area [ 12 ] – in 2003 the College of Pharmacy expanded its program 150 miles (241 km) north to Duluth on the University of Minnesota Duluth campus, adding a fifth department to the College, Pharmacy Practice and Pharmaceutical Sciences (PPPS).

The specific multi-campus model used by the UMN College of Pharmacy is somewhat unique among multi-campus pharmacy programs in the U.S. The PPPS department includes faculty representing Biochemistry and each of the major Pharmacy disciplines (Clinical Pharmacy, Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmaceutics, Pharmacology, Pharmacy Practice, and Social & Administrative Pharmacy). Didactic courses within the College are taught using videoconferencing technology, with classroom presentations/lectures originating from either Minneapolis or Duluth and being broadcast to the other campus.

The mission of the PPPS department includes preparing pharmacists to provide patient care in rural and Indigenous communities [ 13 ]. PPPS faculty embody this mission in all four areas of an academic health professions program, highlighting the unique health needs of rural residents in their teaching, addressing these needs through community-based participatory research [ 14 ], conducting service activities in rural communities, and providing clinical services. Until 2022, however, no single course in the College of Pharmacy’s curriculum was devoted specifically to rural health.

Rural pharmacy elective-course description and structure

To help address this gap in the College of Pharmacy curriculum, the author – a pharmacist who has practiced hospital, community and long-term care pharmacy in frontier/Indigenous communities in Alaska [ 10 ], Eastern Montana and Minnesota – created a two-credit elective course (two hours per week for 15 weeks) in Rural Pharmacy to introduce students to the benefits and challenges of living and practicing in rural communities. Development of the course was guided by the author’s teaching philosophy; to paraphrase Confucian philosopher Xun Kuang [ 15 ]: “Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I will remember. Involve me and I will understand.”

The Rural Pharmacy course was designed as a HyFlex course [ 16 ] that allows the learner to choose by which content delivery method they would like to learn. Learners in a Hyflex course may elect to attend a live class session in person in a classroom, may attend a live class session remotely via videoconference, or may learn online anytime. Each live class session is recorded to accommodate students who prefer to learn online during a given week, or throughout the entire course.

The Rural Pharmacy elective is a “modified” HyFlex design in that no in-person option is available. University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy faculty and students are accustomed to videoconferencing as a course delivery method, the college having used videoconference technology since 2003 to conduct live, in-person sessions for learners on campuses located 2.5 h apart from one other. Required and elective didactic courses delivered by videoconference are always recorded, enabling learners to view the recording at a more convenient time if they are unable to attend the live class session. Another reason that an in-person option for the Rural Pharmacy elective is not offered is that live course sessions are conducted in the evening to accommodate students from different years in the pharmacy program (P2 and P3) whose other courses are all on different schedules, and Minnesota’s frequent snowy and icy winter conditions are not always conducive to safe travel to and from campus, especially at night.

At the time of this writing, during the first three pre-clinical years University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy students are required to complete 15 credits of elective courses above and beyond their required courses. The Rural Pharmacy elective is open to students in the final two pre-clinical years of the PharmD program (P2 and P3), but enrollment is capped by the instructor at 25 students per offering. Live class sessions are conducted once weekly for two hours in the early evening by videoconference for all students, whether based in Duluth or in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Twin Cities area. The early evening hours avoid conflicts with students’ other courses, which are on different schedules between 8:00 am and 5:30 pm for both of the two years. Students are encouraged to attend as many live videoconference sessions as possible, especially when a guest presenter is scheduled; however, as noted above all class sessions are recorded for viewing or reviewing at a more convenient time. The recordings accommodate students who may be working in a pharmacy as a Pharmacy Intern or Pharmacy Technician at the time class is scheduled, or students who desire to review one or more recorded class sessions prior to the written midterm examination.

A University of Minnesota Post-Graduate Year 1 (PGY1) Rural Pharmacy Resident [ 17 ] serves as the Teaching Assistant for the course each year, participating in the live class sessions via videoconference. The Pharmacy Resident is based out of a rural community in central Minnesota, traveling to two other rural communities and providing comprehensive medication management services [ 18 ] to residents of all three communities. While maintaining patient confidentiality, the Resident shares with students their experiences caring for patients in rural communities, some stories being only a few hours old. In addition to regularly participating in live class sessions, the TA prepares and leads a class session on their own, and conducts the live session interviews with guest rural pharmacists as described below.

About half of the class sessions feature guest pharmacists who currently practice in rural communities, guests joining the live class sessions via videoconference. When a guest pharmacist is invited to participate in the course, the instructor provides the pharmacist with a list of potential interview questions that they would be asked to address during the class session. On rare occasions the visits with pharmacist(s) are pre-recorded either to better accommodate the pharmacist’s work schedule or because of time zone differences between Minnesota and the states where the pharmacists live/work. Pre-recorded interviews are played during the live class session, and students submit questions they would have asked the pharmacist had the pharmacist been able to join the class session in real time. Those questions are then summarized by the instructor and forwarded to the guest pharmacist to respond to as the pharmacist’s time allows. Pharmacists living and practicing in rural and Indigenous communities from throughout Minnesota and from as far away as Alaska have participated in the live sessions, either pre-recorded or in real time. In addition to rural pharmacists, guest presenters have included Advance Practice Nurses [ 19 ] from rural communities, and a Biologist who works with an Indigenous community on the impacts of climate change on the health of the community.

A variety of assessments are utilized in the course including reflection papers, an online multiple-choice/true–false/short answer midterm exam, written participation in online discussions, in-class student presentations and written summaries of interviews with pharmacists practicing in rural communities. The course is graded on a A,B,C,D,F letter grade scale. A total of 300 points are available across nine activities in the course, ranging in value from 5–50 points. The grading scale used in the course is the professional scale used in all of the college’s courses, an A grade being attained by students who earn at least 93% of the available points while students earning fewer than 60% of available points do not receive a passing grade. The possible number of points available on individual assignments are assigned by the instructor based on the amount of time and effort students are expected to expend on the assignment as well as the quality of each assignment’s deliverable.

At the start of the course students complete a brief 7-point Likert-type questionnaire regarding their familiarity with rural communities and interest in possibly practicing in a rural community. The questionnaires are confidential rather than anonymous as students complete the same questionnaire again at the end of the course. The course director uses student names to match start-of-course and end-of-course questionnaires to measure changes in student attitudes. Students also write a brief paper describing their experiences with rural communities and the reason for their interest in learning (or learning more) about living and practicing in rural communities. The instructor uses this information to tailor presentations in the course for the entire class based on the students’ familiarity with rural communities. This information also familiarizes the instructor with students’ backgrounds, enabling the instructor to invite specific students to share their rural experiences as relevant opportunities arise during live class sessions. The initial questionnaire and interest paper collectively constitute 8.37% of the course grade.

The online midterm examination is based on material provided in the textbook [ 20 ] or during instructor or Resident presentations. Students are tested on their knowledge about what constitutes “rural” as defined by several different U.S. government agencies, rural culture, challenges in rural public health, and opportunities and challenges related to practicing pharmacy in rural communities. The midterm exam score constitutes 16.7% of the course grade.

As mentioned previously, the HyFlex nature of the course accommodates students who are unable to attend the live videoconference sessions. All students, however, participate in weekly written online discussions based on the live videoconference session from that week. Live sessions are recorded so that any student may view and listen to the session at their leisure. In the online discussion, students are asked to respond to an instructor-generated question based on that week’s live class session. Students are asked to post their response first, then comment on the response of at least one other classmate. The Canvas learning management system [ 21 ] facilitates this learning approach, providing the instructor the option to require a student to post their response before reading the responses of classmates. Students who post their responses by the weekly deadline receive full participation credit for the week, rather than being graded on the length of their response or on the number of responses they make to classmates’ postings. As a HyFlex course, students are not awarded extra points for attending the live videoconference session, nor are they penalized for not participating in the live videoconference session. Participation constitutes 16.7% of the course grade.

Indigenous people began living in what today is referred to as Minnesota some 13,000 years ago. Among the earliest identifiable tribes in Minnesota were the Dakota (Sioux) circa 1000 CE and the Anishinaabe (Chippewa, Ojibwe) who arrived in the mid-1700s [ 22 ]. Today, Minnesota is home to four Dakota and seven Anishibaabe reservations [ 23 ], most of these communities being located in rural or frontier Minnesota counties. In contrast to these early inhabitants whose ancestors have lived in Minnesota for hundreds of years, today foreign immigrants are arriving in Minnesota in increasing numbers [ 24 ]. Many of these new arrivals settle in communities outside of the Twin Cities Metro Area [ 25 ]. This spectrum of diversity underlies the importance for healthcare providers to learn to provide culturally-responsive care [ 26 ]; therefore, students in the course learn about Indigenous people or foreign-born immigrants they might encounter if practicing in rural Minnesota. Each student is assigned a particular culture (not their own), and through readings about and/or interviews with members from that culture prepares a brief presentation they share with the class during a live videoconference session. Again, because this is a HyFlex course a student who knows in advance that they will be unable to attend class when they are scheduled to present are able to pre-record their presentation. Pre-recorded student presentations are played during the live course session. This exercise constitutes 16.7% of the course grade.

As students in this course are training to become pharmacists, they interview pharmacists who currently practice in rural communities (or who have practiced in a rural community in the recent past). These interviews supplement the rural pharmacy practice stories provided by the instructor, the Resident, and the pharmacists who present during class videoconference sessions. Most, but not all, of the pharmacists who participate in the course are the instructor’s former students from the UMN College of Pharmacy, Duluth. In addition to pharmacists with practice experience in rural Minnesota, pharmacists in the instructor’s circle of contacts from rural Alaska, Wisconsin and Michigan have participated in the course, as have pharmacists from four different rural Indian Health Service [ 27 ] /Tribal Health Clinics. Potential pharmacist participants are contacted by the course instructor before the course begins to gauge their interest and willingness to participate in a live class session or be interviewed by the students, and are provided with the list of interview questions that will be asked. Characteristics and practice settings of the pharmacists who participated during the first two offerings of the course are presented in Table  1 .

The instructor assigns the students to interview teams of two to three students who conduct structured interviews with the rural pharmacists who practice in community, critical access hospital [ 28 ], health system hospital or Indian Health Service/Tribal Health settings. Each student is assigned to one team to interview a community pharmacist, and then to a different team to interview the health system pharmacist. Where possible, teams are structured to reflect gender diversity and include students from different years in the pharmacy program. Each student team contacts their assigned pharmacist and schedules a telephone or videoconference interview. Interviews are intended to last no more than 30 min, but oftentimes go longer as the conversations between the students and the pharmacist range far beyond the structured questions provided by the instructor.

Each student submits written summaries of their two interviews. Each interview team provides informal presentations about their interviews to the class during a live videoconference class session. Each interview assignment constitutes 16.7% of the course grade.

At the end of the course, students once again complete the 7-point Likert-type questionnaire regarding their interest in possibly practicing in a rural community. The numerical results from this questionnaire are compared to the numerical results of the interest questionnaire that the student completed at the start of the course. Each student also writes a brief reflection paper regarding what they learned in the course about practicing pharmacy in a rural community, and what aspect of the course they found most interesting/helpful in their learning. As with the similar assignments at the beginning of the course, the final questionnaire and final reflection paper constitutes 8.37% of the course grade.

Rural pharmacy elective-topics

Topics presented in the course are listed in Table  2 . Topics for didactic sessions early in the course are based on selected chapters from the textbook required for the course, Foundations of Rural Public Health in America (2022), by Joseph N. Inungu and Mark J. Minelli [ 20 ]. The course also features interdisciplinary and interprofessional components. As noted earlier, one guest presenter is a PhD Biologist employed by one of Minnesota’s American Indian tribes. That individual addresses Climate Justice, explaining the impact of climate change on rural Indigenous communities. Also as noted earlier, a group of rural Advanced Practice Nurses in different subspecialties present a panel session addressing the challenges faced by the communities they serve, and describe how they interact with rural pharmacists in their communities.

Assessing course outcomes

The percentages of students enrolled in the course on each campus who reported growing up in a rural community or having spent considerable time visiting relatives who lived in rural communities were compared using Fisher’s exact test [ 29 ]. For students completing rural interest questionnaires both at the beginning and the end of the course, rating scores from both years and both campuses were combined and paired. Given the ordinal nature of the data, beginning/end of course ratings were evaluated using the Wilcoxon signed-rank test [ 30 ]. A two-tailed alpha value of 0.05 was selected as the criterion to indicate significance in all numerical comparisons.

For the first offering of the course in Spring, 2022 a total of 25 students completed the course. Spring 2023 had 17 students in the course. The demographics of the students in these two cohorts are summarized in Table  3 .

Between the first two offerings of this course, 25 students on the Minneapolis campus enrolled in the course. Of these 25, 10 (40%) reported growing up in a rural community or having spent considerable time visiting relatives who lived in rural communities. Among the 17 Duluth students enrolled in the course between the two years, nine (53%) reported having grown up or otherwise spent considerable time in rural areas. This difference was not statistically significant.

At the beginning and end of the course, students rated their interest in living/practicing in rural community using a 7-point Likert-type scale ranging from “1-No interest” to “7-When can I start?!” The results from the 36 students who completed both the pre and post questionnaires are presented in Fig.  1 .

figure 1

Interest in Practicing Pharmacy in Rural Communities ( n  = 36)

The total net change in Rural Interest scores across all students completing both questionnaires was + 5 in 2022 and + 2 in 2023, some student scores increasing, others decreasing, and still others remaining the same. Results of the Wilcoxon Signed-Ranks Test were non-significant ( z  = -1.5903; p  = 0.112).

The largest change in scores occurred in the “Not sure” category (middle choice), with only one student remaining unsure of their interest in practicing in a rural community at the end of the course compared to six students at the beginning of the course. Four students who selected “Not sure” at the start of the course expressed lower interest in practicing in a rural community at the end of the course, one of these students moving down three levels from “Not sure” to “No interest.” One student who had selected “Interested” at the beginning of the course also dropped three levels at the end of the course to “Slight interest.” In contrast, several students who had selected “Interested” at the start of the course moved up to “Very Interested” or “When can I start?!”.

At the end of the course, students were asked to reflect on the impact of the course on their interest in practicing pharmacy in a rural community. Among the 42 students enrolled in the course during the first two years, 25 students in their reflection papers explicitly expressed appreciation for being able to interview pharmacists currently practicing in rural communities, while 20 explicitly expressed appreciation for having rural pharmacists and other professionals as guest speakers during class sessions. Two word clouds were generated from students’ reflection papers, one based on student perceptions of the benefits of living/practicing in a rural community (Fig.  2 ), and the other based on student perceptions of the challenges of living/practicing in a rural community (Fig.  3 ).

figure 2

Word cloud featuring perceived benefits of living and practicing pharmacy mentioned in Rural Pharmacy students’ end-of-course reflection papers. “Courtesy of”

figure 3

Word cloud featuring perceived challenges of living and practicing pharmacy mentioned in Rural Pharmacy students’ end-of-course reflection papers. “Courtesy of”

Representative student comments excerpted from their reflection papers regarding what they had heard from rural pharmacists who participated in the course are provided below. Each student’s comment is followed by that student’s final rating of their interest in practicing pharmacy in a rural community (1 = No interest, 7 = When can I start?!):

Before this course I had no interest in practicing rural before but now I’d at least entertain the idea after speaking and interviewing pharmacists that did or currently practice there. (Student selected ratings of 1 and 2) Hearing so many amazing stories, pharmacists are truly more than just “pill counting” because a single pharmacy can connect them with other rural health professionals, expanding the capabilities of rural pharmacists…. (2) If you can dream it you can do it in rural pharmacy. (5) It was great to have [the pharmacist I interviewed] in my network, as [they] said I can contact [them] anytime with questions outside… [of] my interview. I learned that having many contacts in your network, especially in rural areas, is so important…. (6) This class stimulated a future career interest that I already had, but was not sure exactly how to get started and who to ask if I had any questions. I feel like I now have many resources to reach out to when it comes to my future career, which makes me incredibly happy and comfortable. (7)

Students also expressed appreciation for other aspects of the course, whether the students were interested in practicing in a rural community at the end of the course or not. Again, each student’s comment is followed by that student’s final rating of their interest in practicing pharmacy in a rural community (1 = No interest, 7 = When can I start?!):

Even if I do not practice as a rural pharmacist, I will value the exposure and learning that has come from the topics covered in this course. (3) To be frank, I never even entertained the idea of practicing as a rural pharmacist. I’ve always wanted to work in an urban ambulatory care setting…. I did not expect the class to be as eye opening as it truly was…. I’m much more open to serving in a rural community and may consider it strongly . (3) It would be a huge adjustment to move to a rural area since I have grown up in [an urban community] my whole life. I want to work in a rural community since it is rewarding, but it is difficult to leave family behind and essentially start a new life with new people. (4) This is a rural pharmacy class, but it did not feel biased towards only working rural…. I came into this class knowing that I had an interest in rural pharmacy, but I did not expect to come out of this class even more interested in what rural areas have to offer. (6) Before starting this course, I knew that I wanted to practice pharmacy in a rural community…. Many times during this course we stated, “When you’ve seen one rural community, you’ve seen one rural community.” I did not know how true this statement was before this course…. Despite their vast differences, one common underlying theme is the health disparities seen in rural areas. (7)

It is important that health professions students be introduced to rural culture, even if they are “never” going to live/practice in a rural community themselves. With 5–64% of states’ populations living in rural communities [ 1 ], the odds are good that at some point in their careers, health professionals living in large urban centers are going to care for patients who have come from rural communities to receive more specialized care than is available locally [ 31 ]. Being introduced to rural culture can help students provide more culturally responsive care [ 32 ] to patients from rural communities during their careers.

The purpose of this course was to introduce pharmacy students to the advantages and challenges of practicing and living in rural communities. The course was not intended to “change hearts and minds” of students regarding their possible interest in practicing in a rural setting, and as can be seen from the results, students’ “interest in rural” ratings collectively neither significantly increased nor decreased between the beginning and the end of the course. Regardless, from comments in their reflection papers students generally appreciated the course, finding the interviews with rural pharmacists to be particularly valuable. This finding was heartening to the instructor who was initially concerned about the amount of out-of-class work being asked of the students.

Likewise, guest presenters who participated in the live class sessions and pharmacists interviewed by the students informally expressed their satisfaction with participating in the course, and expressed gratitude that this course was being offered. One pharmacist who previously practiced in a remote Alaska community but had recently moved to a major urban center in the “Lower 48” (Alaskan reference to states in the contiguous United States south of the 49th Parallel) expressed how much they enjoyed sharing their stories with the Rural Pharmacy students. The students with which this pharmacist currently works all desire to practice in large urban centers and are not particularly interested in hearing about the pharmacist’s experiences practicing in small, isolated communities. Another pharmacist noted that they really appreciated joining the students virtually in the live classroom, and was going to recommend this approach to other pharmacy schools with which they work as a way to generate interest in rural pharmacy in general, as well as interest in their particular pharmacy as a clinical rotation site.

A few changes were made in the roster of pharmacists participating in the course from year to year; however, most of the guest speakers and pharmacists who were interviewed by the students participated in the course both years. Another change being considered for the next offering of the course is to add a live videoconference session with a Minnesota Department of Agriculture “Farm Counselor” (a Licensed Professional Counselor) who makes in-person “farm calls” to address farm families’ mental health needs within the unique context of farm culture [ 33 ] (MN Dept of Ag, 2023).

A course specifically addressing the benefits and challenges of practicing pharmacy in rural communities was well-received by pharmacy students enrolled in the course, and by the rural guest presenters and rural pharmacists who were interviewed by the students. Even students who have little interest in living or practicing in a rural community can benefit from being introduced to rural culture, helping all students provide more culturally-responsive care for patients from rural communities.

Availability of data and materials

The data analyzed during the current study are not publicly available due to stipulations in the U.S. Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), but are available in de-identified form from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


Students enrolled in years 1, 2 or 3 of the Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program

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Doctor of Pharmacy

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TPS is Professor of Pharmacy Practice in the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy, Duluth. He has practiced community, hospital and long-term care pharmacy in frontier communities in Southeast Alaska, and at Indian Health Service/Tribal Health clinics in frontier Alaska and eastern Montana, and in rural Minnesota. He is a member of the Rural Pharmacy Consortium , a Past Chair of the Small and Rural Hospital Section Advisory Group for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, and a Past President of the Minnesota Rural Health Association.

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After Trump’s Conviction, a Wary World Waits for the Fallout

Already braced for uncertainty about the U.S. election, countries in Europe and Asia are now even more unclear about the future of American diplomacy.

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Mr. Trump, in a dark blue suit and bright blue tie, walks past metal police barricades with a group of other men.

By Hannah Beech and Paul Sonne

  • May 31, 2024

The world does not vote in American presidential elections. Nor do its jurors play a part in the American judicial system. Nevertheless, the conviction of Donald J. Trump on all 34 felony counts in a hush-money trial in a New York court on Thursday has again made clear how consequential what happens in the United States is for the rest of the planet.

Many America-watchers are grappling with the same questions posed by people in the United States: Can Mr. Trump still run for president? (Yes.) And if so, will the guilty verdicts cut into the support from his political base? (Unclear.)

Foreign observers also began wondering if Mr. Trump, already a volatile force, would become even less likely to stay within the guardrails of normal politics and diplomacy if he won the presidency again in November.

Mr. Trump’s supporters in anti-immigrant, right-wing nationalist circles abroad quickly jumped to his defense. Viktor Orban, Hungary’s Kremlin-friendly prime minister, called Mr. Trump “a man of honor” in a post on X and said the American people should deliver their own verdict in November.

Matteo Salvini, Italy’s deputy prime minister and the leader of the hard-right League party, expressed “solidarity and full support,” and called Mr. Trump a “victim of judicial harassment.”

“This verdict is a disgrace,” Nigel Farage, the pro-Brexit campaigner and Trump supporter, who is honorary president of Reform UK, a small right-wing party in Britain, wrote on social media. “Trump will now win big.”

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia did not immediately respond to the verdict but has seized on the situation more broadly to undermine American influence. Mr. Putin last year called the various proceedings against Mr. Trump political “ persecution ” and said they had revealed the “rottenness of the American political system, which cannot pretend to teach others about democracy.”

His spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, reiterated the point on Friday in response to the verdict, saying it was clear to the entire world that the U.S. authorities were trying to eliminate political rivals “by all possible legal and illegal means.”

The convictions by a Manhattan jury come as the question of American engagement has become central in several global crises.

In Ukraine, the war effort against Russia has been stymied after Republicans in Congress delayed American military aid for months.

In Europe, leaders reliant on the United States for their defense are jittery about a return to a more acrimonious relationship with Washington and a possible withdrawal of American support for hardening defenses against Russia.

In Asia, where the Biden administration perceives a growing Chinese threat and worries about a possible invasion of Taiwan, American allies are concerned about the sanctity of defense treaties that have long girded the regional security order.

On the campaign trail, Mr. Trump has said he would encourage Russia to attack any NATO member that doesn’t pay sufficiently for its defense and has questioned whether the United States should defend South Korea, a treaty ally that hosts a large American military presence. He is considering the Ohio senator J.D. Vance, one of Washington’s most vociferous opponents of military aid for Ukraine, as a possible running mate.

Foreign analysts worry that Mr. Trump’s favored currency, unpredictability, could again shake up the global order.

Concern about his possible return to the White House is particularly palpable in Germany, the object of Mr. Trump’s ire for much of his first term and the host of more than 35,000 U.S. troops.

Andrea Römmele, vice president of the Hertie School, a public policy-focused graduate school in Berlin, said many Germans watching the Trump verdict were relieved to see that even a former president was not above the law in the United States. But she said Germans remained very anxious about a Trump victory.

“I think everyone is much more prepared to think the unthinkable,” she said.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk of Poland, whose right-wing domestic opponents accuse him of using the judiciary to settle political scores, hailed the conviction of Mr. Trump in New York as “an American lesson” for Polish politicians.

“The law determines guilt and punishment, regardless of whether the perpetrator is a president or a minister,” Mr. Tusk said in a message posted on X. A veteran centrist, Mr. Tusk took office after an October election that ousted a nationalist government that cultivated close ties with Mr. Trump during and after his time in the White House.

Still, on Friday, most foreign governments, forced to surf every shift in the American political mood, reacted cautiously.

“I would like to refrain from commenting on matters related to judicial procedures in other countries,” Yoshimasa Hayashi, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, said at a news conference in Tokyo on Friday.

In Britain, where a national election campaign is underway, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak refused to discuss the Trump case. His Labour Party opponent, Keir Starmer, a former top prosecutor, said he respected the court’s decision and called the situation unprecedented.

“Ultimately whether he is elected president will be a matter for the American people and obviously, if we’re privileged to come in to serve, we would work with whoever they choose as their president,” Mr. Starmer told BBC Radio Scotland.

Mao Ning, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, declined to comment on the verdict. She said she hoped whoever was elected president would “be committed to developing healthy and stable China-U. S. relations.”

The possibility of Mr. Trump’s return to the White House is a source of anxiety for U.S. allies in Asia that rely on Washington for their defense.

When Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan made a state visit to Washington in April, President Biden called relations between the countries the most important bilateral alliance in the world. With American concern rising over China’s expanding military footprint, Mr. Biden has strengthened American defense partnerships with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and others in Asia.

By contrast, while president, Mr. Trump called for Japan, which hosts more than 50,000 American troops on its soil, to pay $8 billion for the upkeep of American bases there. (It never happened.)

Still, the fundamental tension in regional geopolitics — the contest between the United States and China — will continue no matter who wins the American presidential election.

“Beijing has no illusion about Trump or Biden, given their anti-China solid stance,” said Lau Siu-kai, an adviser to the Chinese government on Hong Kong policy. “Beijing is all set for a more intense confrontation with the U.S. over technology, trade and Taiwan.”

Officials in China’s embassy in the United States and its consulates around the country are most likely scrambling to assess how the verdict could affect the election, said Willy Lam, an analyst of Chinese politics at the Jamestown Foundation in Washington.

“The majority of Xi Jinping’s advisers now think a Trump presidency might be worse for U.S.-China relations,” Mr. Lam said of China’s top leader. “If Trump were to win, given the now peculiar circumstances of his victory, he might gravitate towards unpredictable actions to assert his authority.”

There is a sense in Asia that the region is perennially overlooked and underappreciated by U.S. presidents, particularly as crises in Europe and the Middle East have monopolized Mr. Biden’s attention. That sentiment was also felt acutely during Mr. Trump’s presidency, and for American partners in Asia it was made worse by his affinity for regional strongmen.

In addition to occasional expressions of admiration for Mr. Putin and Kim Jong-un of North Korea, Mr. Trump invited to the White House a former army chief who led a coup in Thailand and installed himself as prime minister. Mr. Trump drew accolades from Rodrigo Duterte, formerly the president of the Philippines and now under investigation by the International Criminal Court over his deadly war on drugs.

The Philippines is now led by the son of the longtime dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, who died in exile in Hawaii. He has reoriented the country away from China back toward the United States.

In at least one regard — the prosecution of former leaders — the rest of the world is far ahead of the United States. South Korea, where four former presidents have been convicted of corruption and abuse of power, has made something of a national sport of imprisoning disgraced leaders. The former French presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac were convicted of corruption.

Jacob Zuma, the former president of South Africa, has been charged with money laundering, among other crimes. And Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was sentenced to years in prison for corruption after leading Brazil. His convictions were eventually annulled. He is again president of the country.

Reporting was contributed by Stephen Castle, Elisabetta Povoledo, Roger Cohen, Zixu Wang, Andrew Higgins, Camille Elemia , Choe Sang-Hun , Motoko Rich , Alexandra Stevenson , Sui-Lee Wee and Sameer Yasir .

An earlier version of this article misstated the length of Rodrigo Duterte’s term in office. It was six years, not eight years.

How we handle corrections

Hannah Beech is a Times reporter based in Bangkok who has been covering Asia for more than 25 years. She focuses on in-depth and investigative stories. More about Hannah Beech

Paul Sonne is an international correspondent, focusing on Russia and the varied impacts of President Vladimir V. Putin’s domestic and foreign policies, with a focus on the war against Ukraine. More about Paul Sonne

Our Coverage of the Trump Hush-Money Trial

Guilty Verdict : Donald Trump was convicted on all 34 counts  of falsifying records to cover up a sex scandal that threatened his bid for the White House in 2016, making him the first American president to be declared a felon .

What Happens Next: Trump’s sentencing hearing on July 11 will trigger a long and winding appeals process , though he has few ways to overturn the decision .

Reactions: Trump’s conviction reverberated quickly across the country  and around the world . Here’s what voters , New Yorkers , Republicans , Trump supporters  and President Biden  had to say.

The Presidential Race : The political fallout of Trump’s conviction is far from certain , but the verdict will test America’s traditions, legal institutions and ability to hold an election under historic partisan tension .

Making the Case: Over six weeks and the testimony of 20 witnesses, the Manhattan district attorney’s office wove a sprawling story  of election interference and falsified business records.

Legal Luck Runs Out: The four criminal cases that threatened Trump’s freedom had been stumbling along, pleasing his advisers. Then his good fortune expired .


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    Draw on awe to encourage exploration. If questions can spark curiosity, "awe" can foster a sense of humility. We tend to experience awe when we encounter something larger than ourselves that challenges our sense of the world—and things like nature, music, art, and architecture typically evoke a sense of awe.

  24. Does curiosity make you read more hard news? How about anxiety?

    Or, to be more generous, people consistently overestimate how much they consume just about every kind of "hard" news. When asked on how many days a week they consume political news online, the average answer in the sample was 3.45 days. The average measured in the web browser sample was just 1.09 days. 1 In all, 70% of people overestimated ...

  25. For the rural curious: mixed methods evaluation of a rural pharmacy

    Regardless, from comments in their reflection papers students generally appreciated the course, finding the interviews with rural pharmacists to be particularly valuable. This finding was heartening to the instructor who was initially concerned about the amount of out-of-class work being asked of the students.

  26. After Trump's Conviction, a Wary World Waits for the Fallout

    Donald J. Trump in New York after his conviction on Thursday. Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times. The world does not vote in American presidential elections. Nor do its jurors play a part in the ...