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« Is there diminishing utility in the consumption of the science of science communication? | Main | Coming soon ... the Science Curiosity Index/Ludwick Quotient »

Can I make you curious about science curiosity? . . .

If so, then, maybe you'll staty tuned. An excerpt from something I'm working on:

. . . . As conceptualized here, science curiosity is not a transient state (see generally Lowenstein 1994), but instead a general disposition, variable in intensity across persons, that reflects the motivation to seek out and consume scientific information for personal pleasure.

A valid measure of this disposition could be expected to make to make myriad contributions to knowledge.  Such an instrument could be used to improve science education, for example, by facilitating investigation of the forms of pedagogy most likely to promote the development of science curiosity and harness it to promote learning (Blalock, Lichtenstein, Owen & Pruski 2008).  A science curiosity measure could likewise be used by science journalists, science filmmakers, and similar professionals to perfect the appeal of their work to those individuals who value it the most (Nisbet & Aufdheide 2009). Those who study the science of science communication (Fischhoff & Scheufele 2014; Kahan 2015) could also use a science curiosity measure to deepen their understanding of how public interest in science shapes the responsiveness of democratically accountable institutions to policy-relevant evidence.

Indeed, the benefits of measuring science curiosity are so numerous and so substantial that it would be natural to assume researchers must have created such a measure long ago.  But the plain truth is that they have not.  “Science attitude” measures abound. But every serious attempt to assess their performance has concluded that they are psychometrically weak and, more importantly, not genuinely predictive of what they are supposed to be assessing—namely, the disposition to seek out and consume scientific information for personal satisfaction.

We report the results of a reasearch measure consciously designed to remedy this research deficit....


Blalock, C.L., Lichtenstein, M.J., Owen, S., Pruski, L., Marshall, C. & Toepperwein, M. In Pursuit of Validity: A comprehensive review of science attitude instruments 1935–2005. International Journal of Science Education 30, 961-977 (2008).

Fischhoff, B. & Scheufele, D.A. The science of science communication. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110, 14031-14032 (2013).

Loewenstein, G. The psychology of curiosity: A review and reinterpretation. Psychological bulletin 116, 75 (1994).
Nisbet, M.C. & Aufderheide, P. Documentary Film: Towards a Research Agenda on Forms, Functions, and Impacts. Mass Communication and Society 12, 450-456 (2009).






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Reader Comments (6)

I know lots of scientists who are intensely curious but only about a very narrow subfield of science. I know very few who are curious across a lot of science. Does your measure reflect this dichotomy?
My blog shows that I am someone who is very broadly curious as are many of my scientific friends.
I do not understand why some people are so tightly focused and others are not.

October 21, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEric Fairfield

I have a neurobiological guess as to what 'curiosity' is. I do not yet know whether this hypothesis is right.

October 21, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEric Fairfield


Are you trying to make *me* curious?

I have a lot of hypotheses I don't know are right too.

A lot of people don't. Don't have hypotheses; or sense of perplexity. They *aren't* curious!

That's sad. But not as sad as the prospect that some group of people won't get the benefit of all the great science communication that the Liberal Republic of Science generates to satisfy the appetite of those of its number who are.

October 22, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterdmk38

Of course I am trying to get you to be more curious. I try to get people to be more curious about science every day, all the time. I got one person more curious just this morning. He is thinking harder about how to make cool instruments to give data to global climate modelers so that we all understand climate change better.
I find that to get people to be more curious I have to connect with them, person to person, on some level that is important to them. To do that I have to be prepared when I talk to them.
I have a meeting today, most likely, with three more people whom I am hoping to get to be more curious, in this case about how my knowledge of how a brain functions might help their organization in doing non neuroscience projects.
My blog, if you read the headlines and the posts, is all about learning to get people to be more curious about science and the world around them. Good headlines help. Here are three that are popular -- 'SUSY is dead.' 'Sporadic killers' and 'Methanosarcina- the organism that tried to kill the planet..' Enjoy

October 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEric Fairfield

Eric -

I would guess that even if your observations panned out, scientists as a group are curious across a wider range of fields than non-scientists. Here's another guess - that pattern is culturally dependent...

October 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

As to scientists being curious across a broader range of fields than non scientists, my guess is 'no' but I do not have any good data nor even a good study design. Who is more curious an astrophysicist, an athlete who can play twenty sports at high level, a professor of many religions, or Pharelle Williams? How do I score 'curious?' (Yes, Dan, I have a plausible scoring system based on neural connections. I have no idea whether the system is reasonable.)
I think that the pattern may be culturally dependent. To know, I need a culturally independent measure of curiosity which applies equally well to string theorists, tribesmen on New Guinea (a la Jared Diamond), and Meryl Streep. No idea what that scoring system might be.
Thanks for getting me to think a bit harder about this.
For others listening in, a hard piece is making the metric culturally neutral and even knowing what 'culturally neutral' might mean. For other curious folk, I am a neuromorphic engineer, enzymologist, and mathematician. I tend to frame the current discussion, and a lot of other stuff, in a high dimension space and motions in that space. FYI.

October 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEric Fairfield

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