Exploratory Behavior: An Introduction
Exploratory behavior can be defined as an individual’s tendency to explore or find out more about his or her environment. It reflects the tendency to respond to novelty and cues. Exploratory behavior, also called novelty seeking, is one of the four dimensions of temperament according to Cloninger’s model of personality.
People who are exploratory in nature seek more diversity and novelty and have a desire to experience and learn more. They crave thrills. They tend to be attracted to large crowds and bright colors. They may exhibit characteristics such as inquisitiveness, motivation, self-belief, and adaptability. On the flip side, they may be uninterested and lack inspiration when they don’t come across new experiences.
Exploratory behavior and curiosity are important traits needed for a child’s development. In the first nine months, infants tend to be very curious about any new object, person, or event and explore relentlessly. Exploration dominates other personalities during this time. This tendency to explore continues well into childhood.
Exploratory behavior and curiosity go hand in hand. Whenever you’re curious about something, you tend to explore the source of your curiosity. Exploring either satisfies your curiosity or kindles imore . This makes you explore more, find new unknown things that arouse your curiosity. Though exploration and curiosity are related traits, exploration is not driven by curiosity at all times. Children can just go around the environment, explore, and come across new things that kindle their curiosity. Apart from curiosity, exploration can be driven by uncertainty or complexity.
Researchers have described two different types of exploration. The first type is when children explore a familiar or novel environment and may come across something new. The second type is when they come across something new, and this kindles their curiosity. This curiosity leads them to explore more.
Whenever you come across an unfamiliar experience, your brain tries to overcome the uncertainty. The novelty of the experience sets into motion the desire to explore. The brain’s reward system is also responsible for mediating exploratory behavior. Exploratory behavior is influenced by various factors. These include specific neurotransmitter pathways in the brain, genes inherited, and environmental factors.
Genetics and Exploratory Behavior
Personality traits are influenced by a heritable genetic component. People of certain genetic types are more likely to be exploratory compared to others.
The COMT Gene
The COMT gene carries instructions for the production of the Catechol-O-Methyltransferase enzyme. In the brain, the COMT enzyme facilitates the breakdown of neurotransmitters which are chemical messengers. COMT enzyme breaks down neurotransmitters like dopamine and catecholamines in the prefrontal cortex region of the brain. This region is involved with personality, planning, abstract thinking, emotion, and other traits. Dopamine signaling influences the reward system in the brain. Changes in this gene affect dopamine levels and hence influence the reward system and have an effect on exploratory behavior.
rs4680 is one of the most widely studied single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs found in the COMT gene. Also called the Val158Met polymorphism, it affects enzymatic activity and dopamine metabolism.
Individuals with the AA genotype (Met Allele) have lesser enzyme activity and, as a result, more dopamine levels. These individuals tend to be more exploratory in nature. Carriers of the GG genotype (Val allele) have a higher enzyme activity and, as a result, lower dopamine levels. These individuals are less exploratory in nature.
Non-Genetic Factors That Influence Exploratory Behavior
Surrounding environment: Studies show children tend to explore more in an unfamiliar environment. Adults likewise are more likely to explore in an uncertain environment.
Recommendations To Open Up Your Exploratory Behavior
Personality traits, in general, are very complex. There are no good or bad traits. Each trait has its unique strengths. Each trait is a factor that shapes your life and your personality as you go ahead. You can develop your exploratory nature by following these simple recommendations. Try out new ways to complete a task by changing your usual routine. Instead of taking the same route to work every day, you can experiment with different routes. Try finding a new route for any destination you go to. This will let you think differently and improve exploratory behavior. Seeking multiple solutions to the same problems aids in improving exploratory behavior.
Encourage children to learn more and explore the subject beyond the scope of the prescribed textbook. They will learn a lot, gain more knowledge and become more exploratory. Encourage them to opt for new or different subjects too so they can explore all their options and find what interests them.
- Exploratory behavior can be defined as an individual’s tendency to explore or find out more about his environment. People who are exploratory in nature crave thrills. They seek more diversity and novelty and have a desire to experience and learn more.
- People who are exploratory in nature crave thrills. They seek more diversity and novelty and have a desire to experience and learn more.
- Along with curiosity, exploratory behavior is vital for a child’s development. During the first nine months, exploration is a dominating personality trait.
- The Val158Met polymorphism or rs4680 is a widely studied change in the COMT gene. Individuals with the AA genotype of SNP rs4680 found in the COMT gene tend to be more exploratory in nature.
- People are more likely to explore in an uncertain and unfamiliar environment compared to when being surrounded by familiar objects and events.
- There are ways to improve your exploratory nature like trying new ways to finish everyday tasks and tackle problems and finding new routes to reach your destination.
- You can also encourage children to explore the subject they learn beyond the prescribed textbook.