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On Curiosity: A Fundamental Aspect of Personality, a Practice of Network Growth

  • Perry Zurn (a1) (a2) and Danielle S. Bassett (a3) (a4) (a5) (a6)


Human personality is reflected in patterns—or networks—of behavior, either in thought or action. Curiosity is an oft-treasured component of one’s personality, commonly associated with information-seeking proclivities with distinct neurophysiological correlates. The markers of curiosity can differ substantially across people, suggesting the possibility that personality also determines the architectural style of one’s curiosity. Yet progress in defining those styles, and marking their neurophysiological basis, has been hampered by fairly fundamental difficulties in defining curiosity itself. Here, we offer and exercise a definition of the practice of curiosity as knowledge network building, one particular pattern of thought behavior. To unpack this definition and motivate its utility, we begin with a short primer on network science and describe how the mathematical object of a network can be used to map items and relations that are characteristic of bodies of knowledge. Next, we turn to a discussion of how networks grow, how their growth can be modeled, and how the practice of curiosity can be formalized as a process of network growth. We pay particular attention to how individuals may differ in how they build their knowledge networks, and discuss how the sort, manner, and action of building can be modulated by experience. We discuss how this definition of the practice of curiosity motivates new experiments and theory development at the interdisciplinary intersection of network science, personality neuroscience, education, and curiosity studies. We close with a note on the potential of network science to inform studies of other domains of personality, and the patterns of thought– or action–behavior characteristic thereof.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives licence (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is unaltered and is properly cited. The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use or in order to create a derivative work

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Author for correspondence: Danielle S. Bassett, E-mail:


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On Curiosity: A Fundamental Aspect of Personality, a Practice of Network Growth

  • Perry Zurn (a1) (a2) and Danielle S. Bassett (a3) (a4) (a5) (a6)


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