Taste for Novelty Has Benefits

Do you make decisions quickly based on incomplete information? Do you lose your temper quickly? Are you easily bored? Do you thrive in conditions that seem chaotic to others, or do you like everything well organized?

Those are the kinds of questions used to measure novelty-seeking, a personality trait that’s always been associated with trouble – problems like attention deficit disorder, compulsive spending and gambling, alcoholism, drug abuse and criminal behavior.

Now, though, researchers are seeing the upside. In the right combination with other traits, they say it’s a crucial predictor of well-being.

The psychiatrist who developed personality tests for measuring this trait went on to test and track thousands of people in the United States, Israel and Finland. His conclusion – 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 foster personality growth and benefits society.

The researchers say there’s actually an adventurousness gene, a DNA mutation that occurred about 50,000 years ago, as humans were dispersing from Africa around the world. But genes are only part of the story. Researchers have found that people’s tendency for novelty-seeking also depends on their upbringing, their culture and on their stage of life. And becoming a Zoomer brings moderation. By some estimates, the urge for novelty drops by half between the ages of 20 and 60.

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