We all know the story of Pandora and her infamous box. She was warned not to open the box given to her by the Greek god Zeus, but curiosity drove her to do it, therefore "unleashing" all the evils of the world.

Just as curiosity lured Pandora to do something that could potentially lead to an unpleasant result, all of us are constantly enticed to seek information, no matter the consequence. A new study suggests that our curiosity is so strong that we still follow it even when we can avoid the outcomes.

Curiosity Killed The Cat

Past research has indicated that curiosity often pushes people to participate in high-risk or miserable experiences, such as exploring dangerous terrain or watching terrifying horror scenes in movies.

Study researchers Bowen Ruan and Christopher Hsee suggest that this risky behavior is rooted from our desire to resolve certainty, regardless of the harm it could bring.

In order to check this hypothesis, Ruan and Hsee performed a number of experiments that exposed participants to uncertainty.

In one test, 54 college students happened upon electric shock pens and were told that they could click the pens to kill time before the "real" study began.

For one group of students, the pens were color-coded, each color corresponding to whether or not they would deliver a shock. Five red-stickered pens were shock pens, while other five green-stickered pens were non-shock. This way, the students would know for sure what happens when they clicked one again.

For the second group, however, the 10 pens had yellow stickers. Researchers told the students that some of the pens had batteries while some did not.

For this experiment, the results were clear. Those who were not sure of the pen's ability to shock clicked more. In fact, those in the second group clicked an average of five pens, while those in the first group clicked an average of one green and two red pens.

The second test confirmed this first experiment's findings. In this test, study participants were shown 10 pens of each color. Once again, the researchers found that participants clicked more of the pens with uncertain outcome than the pens marked red and green.

But Will Satisfaction Bring It Back?

In the third study, researchers wanted to find out whether the findings from both tests would be the same under different conditions. They also wanted to know whether acting upon curiosity would indeed make participants feel worse. This study involved sounds.

The study participants viewed a computer display of 48 buttons. When clicked, a sound would be played. Buttons with the label "nails" would play an audio of nails screeching on a chalkboard, which is definitely an unpleasant sound.

Buttons with the label "water" would play an audio of running water. Those that were labeled with "?" could play either sound, but it is uncertain.

Ruan and Hsee found that students who encountered "?" buttons clicked an average of 39 buttons, while those who saw identified buttons clicked an average of 28.

Those who hit more buttons said they felt worse afterward, while those who were given uncertain outcomes said they were less happy.

In a fourth study, researchers showed participants obscured images of unpleasant-looking insects, including cockroaches and centipedes. Again, the participants could click the image so they could see it clearly.

Those who faced uncertainty clicked on more images and admitted they felt worse. When they had to predict how they would feel about their choice before acting on it, they clicked on fewer subjects and felt generally happier.

The study suggests that asking ourselves to predict the consequences of own our actions may diminish our curiosity. This also means that although curiosity is a blessing, it can even take us down wrong paths and make us feel worse. We often seek out experiences and information without thinking twice about what will happen if we do it.

"We hope this research draws attention to the risk of information seeking in our epoch, the epoch of information," said Ruan.

The study is published in the journal Psychological Science.

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