In 2009, researchers at California Institute of Technology used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to record brain activity while subjects considered a variety of questions. After reading each question, the subjects would silently guess the answer and then rate how curious they were to know the correct answer. Since fMRI detects changes in the brains oxygen consumption and blood flow, scientists were able to map areas of the brain that were involved as subjects responded to questions.
The study showed that a high level of curiosity correlated directly with a high level of brain activity. In addition, when subjects were curious about a question, the part of the brain that was engaged was linked with learning and memory. A follow-up behavioral study revealed that subjects would spend more of a limited resource (time or money) when they were more curious to discover an answer. The researchers concluded that curiosity plays a critical role in motivating learning and discovery.
Our amazing, creative God has created us to be full of wonder, with an appetite to discover more about his creation. He created us to be naturally curious. He created us with a drive and a hunger to learn that is almost as powerful as our physical hunger for food. This curiosity compels us to investigate, to ask questions, to seek to understand.
As Christians who desire to engage in authentic spiritual conversations, tapping into this God-given curiosity is the key to asking good questions—questions that communicate to someone that we truly care. As a newspaper reporter, I asked questions as a way to gather information. But curiosity that seeks to understand others and build relationships is a different way of discovering.
When you are curious, you are no longer in the role of expert. You no longer know it all. Instead, you are exploring another person’s world with them, rather than superimposing your world on theirs. This is a good way for us to approach relationships with all people, but especially those of a different race, religion or ethnic origin.
Asking questions out of genuine interest helps build a connection with others. It invites interaction, and it signals that you want a relationship—not just an audience. Meaningful questions give people the opportunity to wrestle with the truth about life, themselves, and God.
Instead of accusing, destroying, rejecting or abandoning them, God asked Adam and Eve questions as a way to connect with them after their disastrous act of rebellion in the Garden. God continues to ask people questions as he carries out His plan to restore people to full connection and relationship with Him. Our questions to those who are alienated from God can be the most loving way for us to be part of that work.
Prayer: Lord, you created us to be curious. Renew that sense of curiosity in us, especially as it relates to the people we meet. Help us to ask good questions that build relationship and trust, so that ultimately we can connect people to you.