"When you're curious, you find lots of interesting things to do." - Walt Disney
Psychology Today, "Decades before Evan Schaeffer started practicing law, he developed an interest so all-consuming it verged on obsession: snakes. By the time he entered the fourth grade, he had so many reptile books that they took up an entire shelf, and he counted the gloves, golf putter and pillowcase he used for snake-hunting among his most prized possessions.
The snake fascination gradually faded, but Schaeffer's determination to learn as much as he could about everything that interested him remained. "I never have to try to have hobbies—they just seem to find me," he says."
Sound like anyone that you know? Put Cal Tech students in a scanner reading trivia questions and you might learn a thing or two about curiosity. Curiosity is its own reward (caudate) and it does seem to boost memory and learning (parahippocampus). The inferior frontal gyrus' role may involve a little bit of both (reward and memory and learning) as well as something else like risk.
Jonah Lehrer adds this additional interesting reflection: "the scientists found is that curiosity obeys an inverted U-shaped curve, so that we’re most curious when we know a little about a subject (our curiosity has been piqued) but not too much (we’re still uncertain about the answer). This supports the information gap theory of curiosity, which was first developed by George Loewenstein of Carnegie-Mellon in the early 90s. According to Loewenstein, curiosity is rather simple: It comes when we feel a gap “between what we know and what we want to know”. This gap has emotional consequences: it feels like a mental itch, a mosquito bite on the brain. We seek out new knowledge because we that’s how we scratch the itch."
Maybe this curiosity drive should be what we trying harder to harness? If the Harvard / MIT -Light Bulb research applies, it may not be that hard to find out where knowledge stops. At least when it comes to science, most people's knowledge seems to be skin-deep.
Curiosity and the Brain - fMRI