Knowledge Is Power — And It's Money Too

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What do you know about curiosity? It seems to be one of those innate qualities in so many living things (you know the saying about cats, after all). What you may not know is that it's actually a very efficient currency converter.

That's one of the conclusions from a new University of California, Berkeley, study — and it actually makes more sense than you think. Neuroeconomists, who study the science of how the brain makes choices, wanted to learn what parts of the brain lights up when we're curious. We tend to seek out experiences that give us hits of dopamine, the chemical that makes us process rewards. The researchers were looking into why we binge information.

Think of all the time you spend watching YouTube videos or scrolling through social media — or, for that matter, spiraling into a Wikipedia rabbit hole. It turns out that your brain processes the dopamine those experience produce in the same way as it processes money victories. Basically, as co-author Ming Hsu puts it, "We can look into the brain and tell how much someone wants a piece of information, and then translate that brain activity into monetary amounts."

Perhaps more importantly, this might provide some insight into why we feast on information junk food like clickbait news articles. Almost all advertising is about hijacking things your brain does anyway. Knowing that you're chasing knowledge in the same way you're chasing cash might help you take a minute, evaluate whether you really want to spend your time that way, and perhaps move on.