Curiosity is the intellectual need to answer questions and close open patterns.

  • Story plays to this universal desire by doing the opposite posing questions and opening situations.

Gap theory of curiosity

Curiosity happens when we feel a gap in our knowledge.

some domains create fanatical interest because they naturally create knowledge gaps.

  • movies - "what will happen?"
  • mystery novels - "who did it?"
  • sports - "who will win?"
  • pokemon - "which cards am I missing?"

An implication of the theory is that we need to open gaps first, before we can close them.

  • For this reason, our first instinct to tell the facts will fall on deaf ears. Our audience hasn't yet decided if it wants to know those facts yet. Not enough curiosity has been seeded yet.
  • A trick to getting people to care is to highlight some gap in their knowledge. Get them to focus on something that they don't know the answer to. Get them curious to find out. Then once they have that interest in closing the gap, you are there to provide the answer.
    • ex. nightly news with flashy headlines "There's a new drug sweeping the teenage community.". This prompts you to ask tons of questions. what drug is it? is it actually a big deal, or just overblown? is my daughter on these drugs?

Gap theory doesn't work when the person thinks already know everything there is to know.

Build curiosity with a "string-along" type of narrative

Consider two contrasting examples:

  1. This year we targeted support from theatre-goers under 35. Our goal is to increase donations from younger patrons, who have traditionally composed a much greater percentage of our audience that of our donor base. To reach them, we implemented a phone-based fund-raising program. Six months into the program, the response rate has been almost 20%, which we consider a success.
  2. This year we set out to answer a question: Why do people under 35— who make up 40% of our audience—provide only 10% of our donations? Our theory was that they didn't realize how much we rely on charitable donations to do our work, so we decided to try calling them with a short interview of our business and our upcoming shows. Going into the 6-month test, we thought a 10% response rate would be a success. Before I tell you what happened, let me remind you of how we set the program up.

The first example summarizes, while the second example keeps stringing you along, making you ask questions: "What was the question you set out to answer?", "Yeah, why do 40% of people only donate 10%?", "So was your theory correct?", "So what happened when you tried to call them?", "So what were your findings after the 6 month test?"

The 2nd example makes you care about wanting to know something, and then tells you what you want to know.

  • It starts with a puzzle. It them presents a theory, and then tests that theory

"Do not spoil the wonder with haste"