Exuberance for Novelty Has Benefits

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/14/science/novelty-seeking-neophilia-can-be-a-predictor-of-well-being.html

Now, though, after extensively tracking novelty-seekers, researchers are seeing the upside. In the right combination with other traits, it’s a crucial predictor of well-being.

“Novelty-seeking is one of the traits that keeps you healthy and happy and fosters personality growth as you age,”

…if you combine this adventurousness and curiosity with persistence and a sense that it’s not all about you, then you get the kind of creativity that benefits society as a whole.

Fans of this trait are calling it “neophilia” and pointing to genetic evidence of its importance as humans migrated throughout the world.

…as individuals we differ in our reactions to novelty, because a population’s survival is enhanced by some adventurers who explore for new resources and worriers who are attuned to the risks involved.

The adventurous neophiliacs are more likely to possess a “migration gene,” a DNA mutation that occurred about 50,000 years ago, as humans were dispersing from Africa around the world.

What was the secret to their happy temperament and character? A trio of traits. They scored high in novelty-seeking as well in persistence and “self-transcendence.”

She and Dr. Cloninger both advise neophiles to be selective in their targets. “Don’t go wide and shallow into useless trivia,” Ms. Gallagher says. “Use your neophilia to go deep into subjects that are important to you.” That’s a traditional bit of advice, but to some dopamine-charged neophiliacs, it may qualify as news.

 

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