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Salim Solaiman


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Why kids lose curiosity in the process of growing up?

Kids are more curious than we adults are. They ask lot of questions which we adult don't and it's is a sign of curiosity. They also try lot of things that we don't. Now why they lose it over time as they grow. Is it a learnt behavior that they learn from "Don't Ask", "Don't Do" phenomenon around them & taking things as granted. Or some neurological changes really happens in the process of growing up?
By stopping asking question or trying new things do we get smarter/wiser or we get dumber ?


Closing Statement from Salim Solaiman

Thanks to all TED members for thier valued contribution and thoughts. There were lot more points on societal reason to be the killer of curiosity but we can't disagree there is biology behind it as well. Good news is that both can be taken care of to keep our future generation curious for longer period and hence supporting to be more creative to solve the challenge of future.

Enjoyed and learnt from you all !!!

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    Mar 29 2011: The more kids' questions go unanswered the less courage they have to ask another question. The behaviour of curiousity can go through a process of exinguishing by neglect and ignoring the behaviour- to the great loss of society and the child herself.
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      Mar 29 2011: truely that is the case with children..
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    Mar 31 2011: I never did! But I can tell you that in this society there is a tendency that we should grow up at a certain point and stop dreaming. It does not seem like the big person thing to do. Thank heavens that Einstein didn't stop being curious. I do bleieve that it's mostly a cultural thing and not biological one.
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      Apr 1 2011: I feel Lee there were,are & will be some people who can fight back all odds to keep up their curiosity, that's why innovation comes and mankind moved , moves forward and will be moving forward. But my thinking is that how many loses their curiosity and why ? Is not that a great loss ?
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    Mar 30 2011: We recently closed out a nice conversation on this this topic here: http://www.ted.com/conversations/145/celebrating_and_inspiring_curi.html I don't think kids "lose curiosity" - I think we kill it in them, sometime on purpose, oftentimes inadvertently. The less we want to know, the less we will know. So we can start by nurturing our own curiosity and letting our kids see us being curious!
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      Mar 31 2011: Thanks Theresa that's really an interesting discussion on curiosity :)
  • Mar 30 2011: Many years ago the movie 'Big', starring Tom Hanks, exemplified the spirit of youthful curiosity and the 'can-do-why not?' attitude. Hanks, who as a little boy was thrust into an adult world without losing that spirit, astounded the adults around him by challenging their staid 'adult' ideas about life. I suggest that people watch this movie - it's very inspirational!
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    Mar 30 2011: I think that our current educational, monetary, and economical systems, which are interlinked in more ways than one, are big culprits when it comes to killing curiosity and creating obstacles for progress...almost purposefully when you study their nature and way of working.
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      Mar 30 2011: I have just visit your web,but why i can not get in.
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        Mar 30 2011: It will be released later this year Wang. Thanks for your interest :)
  • Mar 30 2011: I think because we do not have cultures that facilitate curiosity after a certain age. Very young children are allowed the freedom to explore, investigate and be curious. Once they are old enough, they are sent to schools where they are expected to sit quietly and be "educated".
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      Mar 30 2011: I agree, kids were taught to respond only to certain commands or questions and intimidated if not humiliated when they attempt to question or explore the subject at hand in their class.
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    Mar 29 2011: I agree with caddy mst; curiosity isn't lost, but the fear of losing "stability" in life stops us from trying new things. It makes us hesitate and reconsider bold behavior, mainly because the consequences don't just affect us anymore. It will affect our kids, our spouses or our friends. We just need to be as bold as possible given the restraints around us. No, we can't spray Lysol on the candles just to see what happens anymore, but we can make an effort to learn something we thought was challenging or experience a new culture. As we learn about consequences, we stay away from things that could ruin our standard of living.
  • Mar 29 2011: The cutiosity within us is by no means gone. When we are young, we are eager to go out to see the same as we try to flee our parents. But after we come to realize that what this curisity can provide is nothing more than misery, disappointment, we are desperate to go back to where we come, however, unfortunately, we can not. At this time, we learn from those lessons and tend to, more often than not, be subject to the vicissitudes of life without waning to really face that for we are still timid to be disappointed. But, the curiosity does not die. It's simply because we refuse to admit it for fear of the results. And, what's more, we may find that the brave are almost always curious to everything around.What differs between people is not whether they have the curiosity, cause we all have and that's human nature, but whether we have the guts to face the end of the curiosity.
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    Mar 28 2011: The older we get the greater opportunity we have to encounter suppression from people and the environment. You tell a little one enough times, "You can't do that,", "Stop it!", "Be Quiet", "Grow Up", "Don't Cry!", "That's Silly!", "You're wrong!". it adds up to not wanting to explore and soon enough curiosity gets buried beneath years of suppression.

    From the environment, it could be physical pain from an injury that never heals, hard back breaking work, addictions to things that attack your body, or mere age.

    By not asking questions, you do not become smarter/wiser or dumber, you just become apathetic (an emotional beingness).

    Curiosity is not lost lost in the process of growing up, it just disappears from memory if you have been suppressed enough. You are blessed if you are having as much fun and are as curious as you were when you were a kid.
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    Mar 27 2011: Perhaps it partially has to do with one's mental outlook. Some people seem to be constantly fascinated with the world- They constantly want to try new things, and get enjoyment out of it. Other people don't seem to show this interest.

    Additionally, I think that curiosity has a link with creativity. The creative process involves exploring numerous possibilities, and asking the questions that most people wouldn't. If this is true, then maybe Ken Robinson's theory has some application as to why kids lose creativity as they grow up. Maybe they're educated out of it.

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      Mar 28 2011: Thats my feeling as well, I mean a close link between curiosity and creativity. Some people are able to keep that curiosity for longer than others but as a totality it seems to me kids are more curious than aduults. So thinking how can we lengthen that curiosity if there is not any definite change in neurological make up of brain due to aging.
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    Mar 31 2011: http://www.wimp.com/educationparadigms/

    This video is highly informative about how the most generally accepted education system of the worldis flawed and an idea of how to correct it. Covers creativity, society, and academics.
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    Mar 31 2011: Let me take this thing to another angle and coming back to your question's answer :)

    We oftenly hear by our ancestors and ourselves that kids are innocent and can observe the paranormal things, adults can't easily. There comes a secret of why they do or can do this?? To justify the said sayings, we have to find out the reason.

    Kids at time of their births have a pure spirit i.e. free of apathy, grief, fear, lust, anger and pride. As they start growing up, their heart beat rate changes with span of time, by listening to the surroundings and the sounds that creates vibrations in their brain's cells, to develop new things. If they are being brought up in company of wise people and learned men, they start growing up with the same state of mind, progressing throught their personal developments. We oftenly second the saying, a man is known by the company of his friends. why is that said so?? It is because we change with the surroundings, provided the nature of that surrounding we carry.

    To have the sustainable growth with span of time, we have to adopt three things, namely, courage, acceptance and after adopting these two things we automatically adopt the peace of mind. Getting this peace of mind, leads us to be infinite in terms of energy. The more we have clear mind, the more we can attain things our ways.

    That is why we should always encourage the questions raised by children and don't give them falsely suggestions or replies in things we dont know of, for just the sake of replying something. We should answer them properly the way they want and ask about their feedback of the satisfaction they get or not from our answers. Life is throughout a learning phase and we certainly become what we think. For this we have to think carefully what we desire of and automatically our thoughts leads to our words, words in our actions and finally our actions to our character, to be recognised among the society we live in :)

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    Mar 31 2011: Might be a natural process

    Maybe the brain gets to a point where it shuts down on curiosity...

    I suggest to look at animal behavior and their exploration patterns.
    Many mammals display play during their development, with a lot of curiosity (thinking of exploring lion cubs for example).
    When they get older... play decreases.

    So the true question might be:
    Why do (some) adults not lose their curiosity in the process of growing up?
    We find this behavior in bonobo's too!
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    Mar 31 2011: I just watched this for the second time. It shows that we all have the ability to be creative and curious no matter what the age.

  • Mar 31 2011: I would argue that besides parents turning kids' questions down (maybe because they don't have the energy to answer them, or just because they feel insecure not to be able to know and answer every question of their children) and not holding education up as a high value, I believe that school does too seldom allow children to follow their own curiosity, if there is any left once they get there.

    In a perfect school, children would come up with the questions and answers themselves through curious play. But how do you do that, and is it possible in every subject? How much stuff would children break in physics? Possibly hurt themselves while experimenting? How is it possible to condense the knowledge of centuries in a guided lecture that on the other hand gives children enough autonomy to come up with the questions and answers themselves? I don't know, but I believe that we will see some improvements in this through virtual reality in a distant future. But until then, we can begin with open school and education projects on the net, like they already exist in the form of the Khan Academy, of recorded lectures from top universities on the net, or just like TED or Wikipedia. But it seems the interconnections are still missing. What we have are only different types of web-sites, but no web-nets or web-connections.
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    Mar 31 2011: Surely those of us on TED are filled with curiosity and the desire to learn, as you say though where does this go astray in many people?
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    Mar 31 2011: Well from a biological point of view children do have better brains. There is some interesting research being done on adult neurogenesis in the hippocampus (which transfer short term memory to long term). As we age this system naturally breaks down and it stands to reason the less likely an event will be made into a permanent memory the less one has incentive to be curious about it. Science is now starting to see a connection between meditation and increase of gray matter density in this area. I'm sure living in an over structured environment contributes to the lack of curiosity, but there does seem to be a bit of a natural tendency for this to happen as well. That said it does seem that we can fight off this non inquisitive trajectory.
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      Apr 1 2011: I knew biologically the brain changes in old age (in all age actually change happens) which finally leads to condition like Alzheimers dimentia that is mostly related to loss of short term memory ( if I am not wrong). With growth there might be definite change in brain any way, but is there a link between growth of brain and decline of curiosity? If I could understand right what you said means, storage of information in permanent memory is a sort of incentive to be curious, am I right? Does it means in the process of growing up as kids already have lot of information in their permanent memory , they naturally tend to be less curious even if there is no other socio-behavioral negative influence on them to be curious ?
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        Apr 2 2011: That's an interesting question you pose at the end. Since any society and it's sub genres will not be neutral as how much they value curiosity there is no real answer. I just wanted to provide a bit of a contrast with previous posters who were giving cultural reasons for this change. For the most part I agree with them, at least if you live in the industrialized world. The trade off for technology seems to be an unknowable world. You have to accept that you will not have time to fully comprehend the many things that make life easier, better, or are just there. Any ways if you look at the brain wave patterns, children they have higher rates of theta activity, which is associated with states of creativity, dreams, and meditation. Adults have higher incidents of beta wave which correspond to problems solving. Obviously problem solving and creativity can both be catalyst for curiosity and whether the shift in states is natural, or occur due to societal pressure is a chicken egg game. That said from an evolutionary point of view it stand to reason children need to find out all they can about the world, yet as adults our edge lies in being able to implement that knowledge. So I am on the biological side of this debate, and yes what I was trying to say was that as our ability to create long term memory slows curiosity is reduced. As adults we can engage in meditative states and increase theta wave and the world will appear as it does to a child, but we have to be proactive to do this while children do it naturally.
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          Apr 2 2011: Hi Anthony , great post from biological perspective. I also agree with the psot related to socio cultural impulses that brings down the curiosity of kids but also was trying to understand definite biology behind it.
          As you mentioned beta waves of adults that offers better problem solving capability , does it mean ever curious people like Leonardo Da Vinchi, Newton, Eintstein , Darwin and so on were creative or innovative because they used more their problem solving skills or they could maintain child like theta wave longer than others in their life time. If so how they did it? Was there a specific biology behind that or they proactively tried to increase theta wave through meditative stage to be curious and creative? Any study there regarding that domain ?
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    Mar 31 2011: Firstly, all the children, I've known have a single dream in common and that its adulthood. Thus, one doesnt lose interest of growing, as a fact they wished it would happen the day they were born. Likewise, the struggles that children are faced with today which cause them to be viewed and behaviour negatively, is what might make it appear that youth have lost the interest in growing up. Children fear for their lives, they have no one to truth, love have gone out the door centuries ago, they are seen as less than human to many, they have no rights, they are just aliens within this flesh.
  • Mar 30 2011: Although I'm in college, I still consider myself a kid, and so I'll give you my take this from my transitional perspective. Adults stop asking questions because they fear being told that they will be told their preconceptions are wrong. Little children love to learn new things, and there isn't a sense that "he who knows more is superior, and he who is told he is wrong is inferior". We're taught that the common-sense of growing up is to channel yourself from being interested in everything and learning as much as you can to instead being focused progressively more narrowly on one task (in high school, college, grad school, and finally your "job"). In that situation, it's no longer advantageous to care about everything; in fact, to succeed we're told to care about nothing else besides exactly what we need to learn. Kids aren't more curious, they just don't stifle it the way adults do. They aren't yet subject to the mediocrity complex we acquire as we grow up, where we are only driven to work in what will directly benefit our social and economic situation. It kills me when my classmates only work for grades beyond passing in classes for their major, and merely get by in everything else. Isn't part of that selectivity of going to university finding students who are actually interested in academic pursuits? It baffles me.

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    Mar 30 2011: As old as I am, I don't ever plan to grow up. I have had success in my work and personal life because I've held on to asking "why?" and trying to always be curious.

    When you allow yourself to continue to be a dreamer and use your imagination it makes solving business and life problems easier. TED is all about people asking "what if" and challenging what is. It takes imagination, creativity, and curiosity to create the amazing technology, entertainment, and design featured here.

    Adults need to learn they can be child-like without being childish.

    Great conversation!
  • Mar 30 2011: We force everyone to learn linearly and to do it quickly before the high-stakes test. How boring. There is no time left to explore, to wonder why, or just spend some time dwelling with new ideas. It's all a race and if you can't stuff the pieces in fast enough you become an "underachieve'sr." Everyone is expected to go to college according to the diploma we hand out; apparently no one will need a plumber, stone mason or electrician anymore. We don't teach students how to do anything but head for college. If you aren't headed in that direction you are a loser. It is a sin to make so many feel they are failures! We have the opportunities to let students learn hands-on and to come to understand the world through experiencing it, but that doesn't take into account the tests to see if the teachers are teaching what the students HAVE to learn. We require everyone to learn linearly, despite the fact that not everyone does. We require teachers to perform their teaching using very strict protocols that work in a linear teaching environmenet, even when that is not in the best interest of the student. Then we wonder why the student isn't learning and the teacher can't teach them! What an impossible situation. Why is it not honorable to learn to be a plumber? Why is it not honorable in America to learn to be an Electrician or a Stone Mason? Why are students who can't do advanced math a failure because they won't be prepared for college, yet they really should never have had college as a destination? We are effin crazy to make everyone fit the same mould and require the same standard of learning from everyone! We need all kinds of people and should value them! When I want a plumber it's a crisis and I value their skill and ability highly. Why can't we be teaching the non-linear learner in high school how to plumb, or how to do electrician work or how to be Stone Masons, or any of a number of honorable professions? College is not the only goal!
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      Mar 31 2011: Good point Joann about forcing linear learning under strict protocol. You are from a ultra developed country, so have much better situation. Me from so called developing / under developed country ,where the situation is worse. Sharing my experience. In my grad level after competing hard I ended up a place in Biology faculty of university. First response from adults around me , it's an usless subject. Getting in to Medical or engineering is top of the list as measurement of the success , then comes other physical science subjects while biology is at bottom. But what to do, I didn't succeed in those? Started my class to came across the unwritten but strict protocol of my department , which is, join each theory class then move to practical class then in off period study in department library and then go back to dorm to study again. I broke the protocol. All theory classes I swallowed ( loved some of those though) , practical class I used to complete quickly as there was a bit flexibilty , going library avoided to participate cultural , literary programs of university mostly lead by humanities deparments as that was my passion & actually took lead in many instances. As I also was a bit curious of my subject so was studying those as per my routine. I was branded in my department as a rowdy & bad guy, as disregarded department norm. .
      However ,the result of first term was a shock to the all including me . I top scored with huge margin in theory & scored lowest in practical, in total I am on top quartile.On practical marks teachers holds direct control so was treated as per their perception , in theory part they couldn't as exam papers have no names but codes. Everyone thought how come" he top scores" and I thought to drop out, but one teacher protected me from my that desire.
      So even the perception of system impacts overall learning desire of students which is mostly curiosity depended. Fortunately I think I could protect a bit my curiosity from extinction.
  • Mar 30 2011: In short, reality. Social norms & responsibilities mean you have to become useful & productive. And as more and more of your time is focused on providing for yourself (whether that means providing good grades, or providing money to feed yourself) less time & energy are available to pursue outside curiosities.

    In short, careers ruin every day people … plain and simple. I'm honestly waiting for the Matrix to become a reality, so I can give up this stupid career & actually start to "live".

    I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords. And I'd like to remind them, as an experienced gamer, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their goo-filled battery pods.
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      Mar 30 2011: Understand what you mean , but while we entered in career how much of our child like curiosity was left with in us ? Myself all the time trying, encouraging my team to be curious about what they do, why they do, challenge status quo but with little result , that's why many time thought of idea of bringing a real kid in brain storming sessions to break the road blocks we adults have......... but again the challenge is we adults give little or no importance to kids curiosity.
      • Mar 30 2011: My intellectual curiosity was all but gone by the time I finished secondary school, which means I entered University with zero interest in education (or future career goals). It had all be beat out of me. Many people get engaged by the quest for knowledge, but I start to lose interest after the "discovery channel" version. Which is a shame. I'm in MENSA, which doesn't mean much more than I have a high ability to learn, so the ability to learn is not my problem. But I just … can't … keep … interested. I honestly wish someone figures out why kids lose interest, because I'm a casualty of that effect.
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          Mar 31 2011: Hi Jon, I am really getting curious about you. Checked your profile to know you a bit more(thats the proof). Wish someone expert can answer your question , and may be from the great discussion here you can get some answers if not all.
          What I understand from your post here , you have high interest in robotics or artificial intelligence (is that a wrong assumption?). If you love that focus on that, it might work.
          I feel you might be knowing what caused you that, so want to tell borrowing from Socrates "Know Thyself" . I mean be curious about yourself.
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    Mar 30 2011: It is a question all around the world. The similar phenomenon happens in my country,too.I want to say that if a child stop asking "why" ,it is a pity for all of us.Children have the pure mind without any pollution.We must encourage kids to ask "why" instead stopping them.
  • Mar 30 2011: Good Question....curiosity of asking questions depends on the child in which surroundings has he grown..ie ..if his parents or friends are in a way to encourage his ideas of knowing new things or not...if he goes on growing his fellowmates or friends who are not intersted to know about new things then automatically there will be effect on the other person who has interst in knowing new things
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    Mar 29 2011: great question... Well i believe you should always try to learn more and ask questions all the time. Why is it like this, why dont we do this. etc. etc. how else are we going to learn ? It's not like we all of a sudden stop learning things. no we learn not to learn stuff. If you get my point.

    Everyone is curios. Otherwise we wouldn't learn. We just tone it down after a while because we often are told not to so we learn not to learn.

    or this is atleast what I think.
  • Mar 29 2011: In my opinion,kids lose criosity in the process of growing up is because they have already tried to asking so many quesitons, and they want to find their ways to get the answers.
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    Mar 28 2011: My observations have found Ken Robinson's theory the most plausible. Jonathan Kozol's 1991 publication of "Savage Inequalities" adds a bunch of fuel to the fire (especially since not much has changed since then). Charles Leadbeater might be another talk that helps you see the dilemmas facing children around the globe. Children don't lose curiosity in the process of growing up, I am confident that it is discouraged as a means of control.