When curiosity breeds intimacy: taking advantage of intimacy opportunities and transforming boring conversations

J Pers. 2011 Dec;79(6):1369-402. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2010.00697.x. Epub 2011 Oct 19.


Curious people seek knowledge and new experiences. In 3 studies, we examined whether, when, and how curiosity contributes to positive social outcomes between unacquainted strangers. Study 1 (98 college students) showed that curious people expect to generate closeness during intimate conversations but not during small talk; less curious people anticipated poor outcomes in both situations. We hypothesized that curious people underestimate their ability to bond with unacquainted strangers during mundane conversations. Studies 2 (90 college students) and 3 (106 college students) showed that curious people felt close to partners during intimate and small-talk conversations; less curious people only felt close when the situation offered relationship-building exercises. Surprise at the pleasure felt during this novel, uncertain situation partially mediated the benefits linked to curiosity. We found evidence of slight asymmetry between self and partner reactions. Results could not be attributed to physical attraction or positive affect. Collectively, results suggest that positive social interactions benefit from an open and curious mind-set.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Exploratory Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality
  • Self Disclosure
  • Social Behavior
  • Social Environment
  • Social Facilitation
  • Social Perception
  • Speech*
  • Young Adult