2 types of curiosity you need to tap

Call it Baader-Meinhof in action, but since joining Wonder in 2023, there’s one word I now see and hear absolutely everywhere.


But last week, I learned something game-changing about it.

In the 1950s, “curiosity-drive theory” was all the rage. 

The thinking: when we encounter novel, complex, or ambiguous stimuli, we experience unpleasant states of uncertainty and are motivated to acquire new information to reduce these states. Exploration drops off after new or unusual stimuli are examined, as curiosity has been “satiated.”

Then, this was challenged. Researchers noticed we also voluntarily seek out curiosity-arousing stimuli, even when none are present.

So which is it?!

Turns out, there are actually two types of curiosity

We’ve just become more comfortable with one – especially as we grow up and enter the workforce.

Meet “curiosity as a feeling of interest” and “curiosity as a feeling of deprivation.”

Termed “i-curiosity” and “d-curiosity,” here’s how they differ:

Loads of research have been done on curiosity, and these two types in particular.

One study explored 4 potential benefits of curiosity and 2 potential drawbacks, finding that “i-curiosity” is very strongly associated with all benefits, but also with both drawbacks while “d-curiosity” is only strongly associated with one benefit (empathic listening) and one drawback (indecisiveness).

Other studies explore how to measure curiosity as a feeling of deprivation, or of interest. 

(Some of these statements feel all too personal, especially as a type-A ex-consultant who actually wants to know the answer as much as is supposed to…)

While all this is …interesting... (get it!)

it also has real implications for how we show up at work and the type of culture our companies foster.

Like offense and defense, both are necessary for companies to thrive.

But we too often find ourselves on our back feet – reacting, rushing to the next meeting, pushing towards the next launch, project, or quarter.

And yet? You can’t spell alive or thrive without an “i” 😉. 

So next time you get started on a task, open up Google, or say “I wonder…,” notice which type of curiosity you’re tapping.

And then imagine how it’d feel to more consistently operate from a place of both.

Stay (both types of) curious,

P.S. To learn more about how Wonder is helping the F500, FAANG, and MBB unleash both types of professional curiosity, check out our recent research, our POVs on curiosity and how it gets crushed, start a free trial, or grab some time to chat.

P.P.S. For more reading, check out
The psychology and neuroscience of curiosity