MRI Evidence of Two Types of Curiosity... One for Pain - One for Gain

Buyers buy solutions that address their pain or provide a gain. Mario Livio's analysis identified discreet neural pathways for two related types of curiosity: perceptual curiosity (pain) and specific-epistemic curiosity (gain). His findings have implications for hiring, training and territory management.

Perceptual Curiosity

Perceptual Curiosity is aroused by “novel, surprising or ambiguous” experiences and activates brain regions known to be sensitive to feelings of need and deprivation. Satisfying one’s curiosity is comparable to “having good food, good wine, or good sex.

Perceptual Curiosity was also shown to activate the hippocampus… an older brain structure associated with learning… and enhanced incidental memory, memories “formed without really trying

Specific-Epistemic Curiosity

Epistemic Curiosity is associated with a general hunger for knowledge and elicits the anticipation of a reward. Activations were found to be more powerful when participants were shown answers to questions they had previously guessed incorrectly, suggesting that people with high specific-epistemic curiosity value the general acquisition of knowledge.

Specific Epistemic Curiosity was shown to activate the left caudate and bilateral prefrontal cortex… newer brain regions associated with rewarding stimuli.

Why Should You Care: Leveraging Curiosity Quotient Assessment in Your Sales Organization

Livio’s finding have power implications for hiring, role assignment and territory management:

1. Individuals with high Perceptual Curiosity tend to be more task-oriented and therefore better at driving sales through the pipeline.

2. Individuals with high Specific-Epistemic Curiosity are interested in how things work and in acquiring knowledge for knowledge’s sake. These individual are likely better suited to research, product development and high-level relationship development.

Understanding the current state of and potential for increasing Perceptual Curiosity and Specific-Epistemic Curiosity in your sales organizations provides another lever for identifying and assigning the talent that is best aligned with your organization’s culture and sales model.

Alex Berg