Studies show that curious people are less aggressive.
Although research on the social consequences of curiosity is slim, the existing studies do help us to understand an important finding—that curious people are less aggressive. What could help us to prevent ending up in a coercive relationship just might be the capacity for curiosity in the other person and also in ourselves. Whether looking for an intimate partner or trying to improve an existing relationship, curiosity just might hold the key to success.
Curiosity in Interpersonal Relationships
Curiosity shows an inclination to seek out new information because of an intrinsic interest in learning new knowledge. In the interpersonal realm, curiosity is listening because of an interest in learning about the other person. To fully listen is not thinking about what we want to say next but showing interest in the other person reflected by the questions we ask. Open-ended questions in particular invite more information about beliefs, perceptions, and feelings that can forge greater intimacy. In this give-and-take context, a more balanced relationship develops in which we can feel seen for who we are, feel freer to share more, and have an experience of mutual respect and better tools to resolve conflict.
In four cross-sectional studies, Kashdan and colleagues tested the hypothesis that “individual differences in curiosity are linked to less aggression, even when people are provoked.” In their results, they showed the following:
- Daily curiosity predicted less aggression with no evidence for the reverse direction.
- Lower curiosity and higher aggression were strongest in intimate relationships and in beginning romantic relationships.
- Highly curious people showed greater sensitivity in the relational context.
They concluded, “Curiosity is a neglected mechanism of resilience in understanding aggression” (Kashdan et al. 2013).