Curiosity May Help New Hires Succeed

Topic(s): performance, selection
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: Curiosity adapted by cat: the role of trait curiosity in newcomer adaptation.
Authors: S.H. Harrison, D.M. Sluss, B.E. Ashforth
Reviewed by: Rebecca Eckart

As people are changing jobs more frequently, it has become critical for recently hired employees to adapt to the organization as quickly as possible. Curiosity, or the “desire to know,” has recently been suggested as a possible individual difference that allows some newcomers to adapt more quickly to their new role. There are two commonly studied types of curiosity, typified by scope of exploration. First, specific curiosity is defined as a narrow and often direct form of exploration (e.g., seeking the password to the organization’s network). The second kind, diversive curiosity, is defined by broader and often more indirect forms of exploration (e.g., asking about the reasons behind organizational processes and policies).


In a recent study, researchers (Harrison, Sluss, and Ashforth, 2011) investigated the role of each curiosity type in newcomer adaptation. The results suggest that specific curiosity predicts information seeking behavior by newcomers. Specifically, those individuals with high specific curiosity seem to seek out more concrete and detailed information, which can help facilitate quick adaptation. On the other hand, diversive curiosity promotes positive framing (the ability to re-envision work or surroundings), which is positively related to increased job performance and “taking charge.”


Overall, curiosity seems to be an individual difference that predicts newcomer adaptation and these findings help us understand the role of curiosity in newcomer adaptation. Specific curiosity may facilitate short-term adaptation by newcomers, but it seems that diversive curiosity plays a more critical role when it comes to organizational outcomes, particularly when it comes to newcomer job performance and taking charge.


Harrison, S.H., Sluss, D.M., & B.E. Ashforth (2011). Curiosity adapted by the cat: the role of trait curiosity in newcomer adaptation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96 (1), 211-220.