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Curiosity and intolerance of uncertainty (IU) are both thought to drive information seeking but may have different affective profiles; curiosity is often associated with positive affective responses to uncertainty and improved learning outcomes, whereas IU is associated with negative affective responses and anxiety. Curiosity and IU have not previously been examined together in children but may both play an important role in understanding how children respond to uncertainty. Our research aimed to examine how individual differences in parent-reported curiosity and IU were associated with behavioural and emotional responses to uncertainty. Children aged 8-12 (n=133) completed a game in which they were presented with an array of buttons on the screen that, when clicked, played neutral or aversive sounds. Children pressed buttons (information seeking) and rated their emotions and worry under conditions of high and low uncertainty. Facial expressions were also monitored for affective responses. Analyses revealed that children sought more information under high uncertainty than low uncertainty trials and that more curious children reported feeling happier. Contrary to expectations, IU and curiosity were not related to the number of buttons children pressed, nor to their self-reported emotion or worry. However, exploratory analyses suggest that children who are high in IU may engage in more information seeking that reflects checking or safety-seeking than those who are low in IU. Additionally, our findings suggest that there may be age-related change in the effects of IU on worry, with IU more strongly related to worry in uncertain situations for older children than younger children.

Original publication




Journal article


Q J Exp Psychol (Hove)

Publication Date



Behaviour, Children, Curiosity, Emotion, Intolerance of Uncertainty, Uncertainty