Curiosity motivates us to explore our world. New scientific research about octopuses, for example, yielded the bestselling page-turner “The Soul of an Octopus” by Sy Montgomery and two new films, Octopus: Making Contact on PBS Nature and My Octopus Teacher, a beautiful feature-length film by James Reed and Philippa Ehrlich. Both films hook viewers with fascinating new revelations about octopuses’ highly-developed intelligence and ability to bond with humans. Many nature films are constructed around a series of sequences that reveal fascinating behavior and tap into viewers’ sense of curiosity. Curiosity is stimulated by awe as well, particularly as it pertains to science. One study found that when participants watched the sweeping nature scenes in BBC’s Planet Earth, these viewers became more aware of their gaps in knowledge about the natural world and demonstrated enhanced curiosity around scientific topics.
Using curiosity to engage works across all demographics, but understanding your audiences’ frame of reference and knowledge level is key. Curiosity has a pragmatic caveat that cognitive scientists call the Goldilocks Effect, based on the folkta le of the Three Bears. The stimuli/ information must be neither too simple nor too complex in relation to viewers current comprehension of the world. Whether “fun facts” or a complex scientific analysis, a film can frame the information through storytelling in ways that make it relevant and intriguing to a specific group of viewers.