January 2, 2023

The Gap Theory of Curiosity

In 1994, George Loewenstein provided an account of situational interest. He says that curiosity happens when we feel a gap in our knowledge. The gap causes a pain when we want to know something but don't. To take away that pain, we try to fill that knowledge gap by looking things up, learning, scouring the internet. Some domains create fanatical interest due to this knowledge gap. For instance, movies cause us to ask questions like what will happen, who did it?

This also relates to the Goldilock's Principle which states that humans experience peak motivation when working on the edge of their current abilities.


  • Made to Stick (Dan and Chip Heath), Chapter 2: Unexpected
  • Atomic Habits (James Clear), Chapter 19: The Goldilocks Rule: How to Stay Motivated in Life and Work