Intellectual curiosity and age

One plausible way of graphing it for the average human being. You could argue this graph is better, but I don’t know…:

The “why are firetrucks red?”-age that drives parents insane account for the first huge spike, and it doesn’t last all that long, because if it did the parents would smother their children. After that phase, children are on average still very curious about a lot of things, but the level drops somewhat over time. The sharp decline one third or so into the graph is the point where people start having a full-time job. I’ve never met a 60+ year old who I don’t believe was much more curious when the person was a lot younger; we develop habits over time and once they’re established, we stop thinking about a lot of the things we used to think about and switch to the auto-pilot instead. I really hate that about growing older.

March 19, 2010 - Posted by | Personal, Random stuff


  1. Openness to Experience reliably declines with age, I understand. Aging is a real bitch mentally (see also Darwin’s posts on the damage done by age to the brain, eg. massive loss of neurons)

    Comment by gwern | October 22, 2011 | Reply

    • It’s not just when it comes to the brain stuff that aging is a real bitch.

      There’s nothing about age decline in the Openness to experience article though I of course tend to think you’re right.

      Those are great graphs in your post. I thought ‘world knowledge’ would drop more, otherwise the direction of the variables were as expected (though I have a hard time evaluating effect sizes – hadn’t really consciously formed any priors there beforehand).

      Comment by US | October 22, 2011 | Reply

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