Dr. Natural Science Forss Sofia

113100 €

Curious about curiosity: a comparative study on curiosity in vervet monkeys and human children

Tieteellinen tutkimus / siihen pohjautuva työ | Kolmivuotinen

Curiosity is the urge to find out something new. It is crucial for learning about one’s environment, and arguably the reason to why humans thrive in almost every habitat on earth. To date, an outstanding evolutionary question is: to what extent human curiosity is shared with other animals? Moreover, if curiosity is the reason to why some species successfully adapt to fast changing environments, like those caused by urbanization. Here I present a new initiative to study curiosity in humans and a non-human primate, vervet monkeys, a species recognized for the colonization of urban areas. The project is divided into two parts. In Part A, I will compare curiosity between monkeys living in natural-, urban and captive environments. I will focus on how young individuals seek new information and thereby measure curiosity through a set of tests presenting the monkeys with various novel situations: foods, objects, unfamiliar social partners and novel sounds. Part B, will cross the boundaries between primatology and anthropology, as I apply the same empirical tests of curiosity on human infants and small children. Whilst most studies on curiosity in humans have targeted western industrialized cultures, I aim to use a cross-cultural approach, which compares curiosity in children from Europe to those growing up in an African hunter-gatherer community. This critical multidisciplinary perspective will unravel phylogenetic similarities and improve our understanding of the evolutionary roots of human curiosity. Discovering how curiosity develops across cultures will have direct implications for our society, as supporting curiosity in children is one of the main tasks for modern pedagogy.