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Creating Curiosity


Explanations > Motivation > Creating Curiosity

Stimulation | Partiality | So what


If you can create curiosity you can draw people towards you, making them want to know more. Two principles to use are stimulation and partiality.


Curiosity is a state of arousal, so you need to provoke them and spark their interest. Stimulation is like lighting a fire. Once you have got it going, it keeps going and becomes all-consuming.


Stimulation can come from the interest created when we encounter something new. Novelty makes us want to explore further to identify opportunities and threats. We also get the buzz of learning from playing with new things ('Oh, that's what it's for!').

So talk about new things. Scan the news (a word that itself promises novelty). Look for gadgets to discuss. Ask what new things they have found. Be interested, amazed and surprised.

Losing out

When others have something that we do not, we become curious, wanting to find out what it is. The same effect happens with knowledge and is the driving force behind gossip and social chatter. When we go away and return, an early question we have is 'What's been going on?'

So talk about other people, what they have and what they may be getting. Talk about what others have done and what their plans are. Play up (as appropriate) scurrilous chatter and impressed amazement.


Problems, puzzles and mysteries provide interesting stimulation where we enjoy exploring and trying out things to see what works. The phrase 'I wonder if...' is a classic example of puzzle curiosity in action.

So present them with puzzles and other unsolved problems. Ask their advice. Ask for their opinion on why things have happened. Get them involved in brainstorming solutions and trying things out.


Use words that stimulate and create a desire to know more. These should evoke emotion either by showing your emotion and thereby triggering empathetic emotion, or by rational appeal to needs and objectives.

Stimulating words to provoke curiosity include:

  • Unexpectedness: surprising, amazing
  • Novelty: new, different, changed
  • Different: odd, unusual, weird, strange
  • Scarcity: special, secret
  • Benefit: exciting, interesting, thrilling, helpful, useful


Curiosity comes from partial knowledge which promises benefit. Telling them everything satisfies curiosity. To get them going, give them a taste, not the whole meal.


When something is mentioned in which we already have an interest, or which sparks a new interest (typically by nudging needs), we want to find out more. Hints give just enough information to stimulate interest and curiosity.

So rather than tell people outright about things, drop hints and watch the alacrity with which they pick up on them. Then, a bit later, drop another hint. This is like laying a trail of breadcrumbs right to your door.

Promising benefit

Benefits are positive outcomes that result from actions. When someone talks about the good things I could have, I want to know more, in particular what I have to do to get them. Sales people use this approach when they put benefits before features.

So suggest they could get specific benefits, without saying how. Get them to think the benefits are within easy reach before they realize the real cost. Ask questions like 'Would you like to..?' or 'Imagine that...'.

Partial images

When you show people a part of something, they want to see the rest of it to find out what it is. Even if they know or believe they know what is there (a wonderful skill most people have), they seek confirmation. Photographers use this when they crop images to show half an arch or a part of a person. Gardeners do it too when they give glimpses of country views.

So conceal parts of what they see. Show enough that they can guess but not so much they know or are pretty certain.

Slow reveal

When something is being uncovered, so we gradually discover more, we become anxious as we predict what it might be and wait to see if we are right. We have to keep paying attention as each moment of the reveal gives us more information which we can use to confirm or revise our prediction.

This can be visual or simply words. There is a TV game where the camera starts very close and zooms slowly out while contestants have to name the object. Sales people use this as the give demonstrations and reveal benefits one at a time.

Verbal reveals happen all the time, as while we are speaking, listeners are always predicting ahead. Careful use of words can make use of this dynamic process, structuring words and sentences to reveal in an ordered way, always leading the listener and making full use of curiosity.

So show them things slowly. Pause to let them appreciate each good thing. Layer hints to increase excitement. Start with objects turned away or in a box. Use words like '...not only...' to let them know more is coming. Lead them on a journey of discovery.

So what?

To create curiosity, use the above points to find ways that will stimulate others. Then lead the curious person to where you want to take them.

See also

Need for Arousal, Stimulation, Prediction


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