Did curiosity really kill the cat ?

Media Mythbusting: Television Makes You Fat

Did curiosity kill the cat?

Image courtesy of: http://www.deviantart.com/morelikethis/65944562 "Curiosity killed the cat" by Gouacheman
Image courtesy of: http://www.deviantart.com/morelikethis/65944562 “Curiosity killed the cat” by Gouacheman

We are a selfish, self-obsessed, narcissistic, superficial society!

Well at least that’s how the media reflects civilisation and although this statement is exceedingly ambiguous, there is some truth behind it.

These bizarre traits stem from our innate need to be morbidly curious. The Oxford dictionary defines curiosity as “a strong desire to know or learn something”, “an unusual or interesting fact”. The media plays on our instinctive desires for vile content, our enthralment with the macabre and our deep infatuation for anything ominous. “We are paradoxically drawn to some pretty repulsive things; car accidents, fights, celebrity scandal, drama, disfiguration, true crime, war and gore” as Michael from Vsause explains. The media plays on these psychological tendencies and anxieties by feeding our compulsions, sensationalising abhorrent scenarios and further adding to the allure of our curiosity.

The concept of morbid curiosity cannot be taken at face value. These natural impulses date back from the beginning of human history, “Philosophers and psychoanalysts have long debated the lure of the morbid” (Burkeman, 2012)(Now bear with me for a minute, this part of the post gets really sciencey).There are neurological foundations that explain this phenomenon. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in our brain that is released when we experience some form of pleasure such as consuming food. They are also released in conjunction with other chemicals when a person is in threat of danger, triggering the fight or flight response, “Physically and mentally preparing us to take on a threat or successfully escape from it”(Vsauce, 2015). These euphoric and ecstasy-like feelings encourage us to continually seek out these activities. As a result addiction is made possible, it is described as “a self-destructive human tendency”. The media in-turn uncover such ‘addictive’ content knowing full well that, we the audience thrive off such stories.

The media must constantly re-invent itself and its content as the audience may become bored, unfazed and desensitised. A study by Gene-Jack Wang on obese patients found that the “dopamine sensation levels dilute” as food is no longer fulfilling, resulting in little or no sense of accomplishment or satisfaction. We the audience can take a liking to the obese patients being fed ungratifying content as our receptors dilute and become obsolete. Communication between the media and the audience gives a clear indication into what content has become redundant and what information is wanted and sort after.

The media understands these changes and anxieties through the strong feedback offered by the public in response to the broadcasted content. This can in-turn increase the accuracy of the message from the media (Leavitt, Mueller, 1951). The infamous ‘red barn murder case’ was increasingly popular due to its obscure nature which was increasingly dramatised and heightened by the media. This case would forever change the way the media investigates and produces content. The hype and popularity surrounding the case made breaches of privacy by the media more justifiable and to some extent more acceptable, we the audience /public essentially dictate what the media produces and how the message is delivered.

Ultimately maybe it’s our need to belong and connect that drives us to do what we do, “our attraction to the macabre is, on some level, a desire to experience someone else’s suffering.” We yearn to empathise – a yearning that is, incidentally, perfectly compatible with the evolutionary argument, since empathy helps us forge close bonds, which are essential for survival” (Burkeman, 2012).I would even go far as to say that the media is an “extension of ourselves” and our psyche (McLuhan, 1964).

Oh and if you’re still wondering,

The answer is no, curiosity did not kill the cat…

It killed itself.

This is Monica grace and you have just been Graced by Monica.


David and Aurelio, DS, AG, (2003). Dopamine transport currents are promoted from curiosity to physiology. Trends in neurosciences, vol.26 issue 4, pp173-176.

This column will change your life: morbid curiosity | Oliver Burkeman | Life and style | The Guardian. 2015. This column will change your life: morbid curiosity | Oliver Burkeman | Life and style | The Guardian. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/jul/27/morbid-curiosity-change-life-burkeman

Why Are We Morbidly Curious? – YouTube. 2015. Why Are We Morbidly Curious? – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbdMMI6ty0o.

Your DNA loves horror movies | ScienceNordic. 2015. Your DNA loves horror movies | ScienceNordic. [ONLINE] Available at:http://sciencenordic.com/your-dna-loves-horror-movies.

Addiction: Pay Attention | Psychology Today. 2015. Addiction: Pay Attention | Psychology Today. [ONLINE] Available at:https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200411/addiction-pay-attention.

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