When we consider how the brain works there is a very good reason why, as adults, we become less curious. But it doesn’t mean that it serves us well.
The prefrontal cortex (PFC), the area of the brain that is the most recent to evolve and is the area that is jutting out in our skull at our forehead, is the region of the brain that filters our actions. Cognitive processes – including reasoning, problem-solving, planning, carrying out new and goal-directed patterns of behaviour, inhibitory control, sustained attention and decision-making – takes place here. It is the area of the brain that allows us to read and react to social cues in everyday interactions, to use language fluently and to regulate, or manage, our emotions. (Siddiqui et al., 2008).
The PFC occupies one-third of the entire human cerebral cortex and is one of the last cortical regions to undergo full myelination during adolescence in the human (Fuster, 1997; Anderson, et al., 2001).
If the area of the brain that enables us to perform diverse cognitive processes is only fully developed late into adolescence/early adulthood, then it makes sense that we stop asking so many questions and being curious in adulthood compared to when we are children.
Now consider this: just because our brain is fully formed as adults, does not mean that the decisions we make are the best ones for ourselves or others. The PFC is also connected to our limbic system. This is where our emotions and memories are housed. But the processing of the interaction between the PFC and the limbic system is happening unconsciously, and so we are not aware of how our memories and our emotions are ruling how we make decisions and how we are problem-solving.
As there is so much information coming towards us every second of the day, a brain must make shortcuts, and so it relies on what it already knows instead of working it all through. Our entire nervous system is focused on keeping us safe and so it will do whatever it needs to do to fulfil that job.
What if we could start asking questions and getting curious again, like we did when we were children? We might actually make more effective decisions, and we might engage the people we work with in a way that is conducive to innovation, and high performance.Back to Teams