Curiosity Protects Against Interpersonal Aggression: Cross-Sectional, Daily Process, and Behavioral Evidence

Authors


  • Todd B. Kashdan was funded by the Center for Consciousness and Transformation at George Mason University. This research was supported in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation (BCS-1104118 to DeWall). The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the NSF.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Todd B. Kashdan, Department of Psychology, MS 3F5, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 22030. Email: tkashdan@gmu.edu.

Abstract

Objective

Curiosity is the propensity to recognize and seek out new information and experience, including an intrinsic interest in learning and developing one's knowledge. With few exceptions, researchers have often ignored the social consequences of being curious.

Method

In four studies using cross-sectional (N = 64), daily diary (Ns = 150 and 110, respectively), and behavioral experimental (N = 132) designs, we tested the hypothesis that individual differences in curiosity are linked to less aggression, even when people are provoked.

Results

We showed that both trait and daily curiosity were linked to less aggressive responses toward romantic relationship partners and people who caused psychological hurt. In time-lagged analyses, daily curiosity predicted less aggression from one day to the next, with no evidence for the reverse direction. Studies 3 and 4 showed that the inverse association between curiosity and aggression was strongest in close relationships and in fledgling (as opposed to long-lasting) romantic relationships. That is, highly curious people showed evidence of greater context sensitivity. Intensity of hurt feelings and other personality and relationship variables failed to account for these effects.

Conclusions

Curiosity is a neglected mechanism of resilience in understanding aggression.

Ancillary