Curiosity Tempts Indulgence

Kyra L. Wiggin, Martin Reimann, Shailendra P. Jain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Given curiosity's characterization as a motivational drive for knowledge, prior research has primarily focused on curiosity's positive effects on knowledge exploration, information acquisition, and learning. Once the desired knowledge has been acquired, curiosity is said to be satisfied. But what happens if curiosity is left unsatisfied? Across five experiments, spanning four domains of indulgence-related decisions and relying on different methods of curiosity elicitation, the present research sheds light on an unexpected yet crucial consequence of curiosity-that unsatisfied curiosity tempts indulgent consumption in domains unrelated to the source of the curiosity. This effect is explained by a generalized desire for rewards. Experiments 1-3 establish and replicate the proposed mediation model of curiosity → desire for rewards → indulgence, employing manipulation-ofprocess, moderation-of-process, and measurement-of-process experimental designs. Experiment 4 utilizes neurophysiological data to indicate brain activation in the insular cortex for unsatisfied (vs. satisfied) curiosity. Experiment 5 addresses the role of cognitive depletion as a possible alternative mechanism. In summary, this article demonstrates that the hunger for information that accompanies unsatisfied curiosity is converted into a generalized desire for rewards, which in turn tempts indulgence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1194-1212
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019


  • Consumer neuroscience
  • Curiosity
  • Desire for rewards
  • Indulgent consumption
  • Insula
  • Multimethod mediation
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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