A new research study suggests curious people are typically high achievers as the personality trait is found to be a big part of academic performance.
In fact, this personality trait may be as important as intelligence in determining how well students do in school.
The study is found in Perspectives in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
Researchers believe the finding may be one reason why a brilliant kid may fail at school while someone with a mediocre IQ, yet a stellar work ethic, can excel.
This issue of mixed academic achievement has led psychological scientists to look at factors –other than intelligence — that make some students do better than others.
Experts discovered one factor is the trait of conscientiousness —basically, the inclination to go to class and do your homework. People who score high on this personality trait tend to do well in school.
“It’s not a huge surprise if you think of it, that hard work would be a predictor of academic performance,” said co-author and psychologist Dr. Sophie von Stumm of the University of Edinburgh in the UK.
Von Stumm and her coauthors wondered if curiosity might be another important factor. “Curiosity is basically a hunger for exploration,” von Stumm said.
“If you’re intellectually curious, you’ll go home, you’ll read the books. If you’re perceptually curious, you might go traveling to foreign countries and try different foods.”
Each of these traits can help an individual do better in school.
In the study, the researchers performed a meta-analysis, accumulating findings from about 200 studies with a total of about 50,000 students.
They found that curiosity did, indeed, influence academic performance. In fact, it had quite a large effect, about the same as conscientiousness. When put together, conscientiousness and curiosity had as big an effect on performance as intelligence.
Von Stumm wasn’t surprised that curiosity was so important. “I’m a strong believer in the importance of a hungry mind for achievement, so I was just glad to finally have a good piece of evidence,” she said.
“Teachers have a great opportunity to inspire curiosity in their students, to make them engaged and independent learners. That is very important.”
The researchers believe employers may also want to incorporate this finding into their hiring practices.
A curious person who likes to read books, travel the world, and go to museums may also enjoy and engage in learning new tasks on the job.
“It’s easy to hire someone who has the done the job before and hence, knows how to work the role,” von Stumm said. “But it’s far more interesting to identify those people who have the greatest potential for development, i.e. the curious ones.”