Chapter 4: What causes a person to develop a passion?

During the time that I spent reflecting on Chapter 4, a question kept popping into my head. What causes one to develop a desire to learn? This may sound like a question that could be answered with ones common knowledge but what I am looking to find out goes much deeper. So far in Bel Canto we have been introduced to many characters that have clearly invested a lot of time in something that evokes a sense of passion and have continued to pursue. Some examples include….

Roxane Coss: Singing

Gen: Knowledge of Language

Hosokawa: Listening/ attending the Opera

Tetsuya Kato: Playing the Piano

After a fair amount of research, I was able to take a closer look at what actually creates the need for a person desiring knowledge about a particular matter. The first along with the most manifest element that motivates learning is a person’s interest. Paul Silvia of the University of North Carolina defines interesting as “material that is novel, complex, and comprehensible.” When one becomes overly enthralled by a subject matter, there is a drive that pushes that person to know more. George Loewenstein, a professor of economic and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University found that, “when attention becomes focused on a gap in one’s knowledge, such information gaps produce the feeling of deprivation labeled as curiosity. The curious individual is motivated to obtain the missing information to reduce or eliminate the feeling of deprivation.” (Paul) This is simply due to the fact that when interested in a task, people are willing to work harder and persist until they are satisfied with their progress. A study performed at the University of Wisconsin found that when a person finds a passionate interest, it could allow him or her to overcome academic difficulties that would arise when learning about a topic that is not interesting to that specific person. I can personally agree with their findings due to classes I have taken thus far in my college career. A lot of the classes that are included in the general education requirement here at UNC Charlotte failed to capture my interests but now that I am fully immersed into my major, the courses I am taking are closely associated with my interests. (Paul)

The next element that is necessary to generate interest is a sense of curiosity. Earlier I mentioned George Loewenstien’s theory about the gap in ones knowledge; he went on to publish “The Psychology of Curiosity” and stated that curiosity is the engine of intellectual achievement and is what drives us to keep learning, trying, and pushing forward. (Murphy) His theory helps to explain that curiosity is not only a mental state but also a form of emotion. Curiosity is a potent motivator that is powerful in a way that keeps us moving forward in attempt to find the information that will fill the gap of knowledge. However, according to Daniel Willingham, a cognitive scientist, people get so eager to fill the gap that there isn’t a sufficient amount of time spent figuring out what exactly a persons question is. (Murphy) This goes back to reflection and not jumping right into something. These blog posts are an excellent example of that Willingham is trying to convey. Each week we choose a topic of interest and in order to effectively complete the assignment it is necessary to take a step back and do prior research on the topic before jumping right in to the writing portion.

Traditionally the two traits used to describe the golden keys to future achievement are intelligence and effort. This may be a popular belief but Hell and Chamorro-Premuzic, owners of the paper Von Strumm, say that there is another element that needs to be taken into consideration, curiosity. (Jenkins) Brain plasticity research has proven that by finding strong existing neural pathways an thought patterns, a connection can be made between the two creating a new thought pattern. An example of this would be a student who is not fond of math but has a strong sense of curiosity for space and the solar system. With that being said, by integrating outer space into a math problem, the student would be more likely to enjoy and learn the concepts being taught in his math class. (Jenkins)

With all of this being said, I was able to conclude that when learning or doing something that has passion behind of it, it is indeed an intrinsically motivated task. This means that a person is motivated by internal factors and actually enjoys what he or she is doing whether it be for fun or just because it is the right thing to do.

Jenkins, Bill. “The Curious Mind: Interest, Drive, and the Road to Academic Success.” Scientific Learning. 13 Mar. 2012. Web. 21 Sept. 2015. <;.

Murphy, Annie. “How to Stimulate Curiosity.” TIME. 15 Apr. 2013. Web. 22 Sept. 2015. <;.

Paul, Annie. “How the Power of Interest Drives Learning.”KQED. 4 Nov. 2013. Web. 21 Sept. 2015. <;.


3 thoughts on “Chapter 4: What causes a person to develop a passion?

  1. dgromels says:

    This was a great question to explore in a post because I feel like nearly all of the characters in Bel Canto have something they are truly passionate about, which also seems to define how they are viewed by other characters. I consider myself to be a very curious person, and I can definitely relate to the feeling you described in your post when a person has a need to fill gaps in their knowledge. However, I often feel like I have too many interests to focus on just one passion, which might be holding me back from achieving more in just one field.
    I think an interesting avenue of research could be exploring how people pursue many passions or combine their passions to build new knowledge. One person that stands out for me when I think of a person with many passions is the classic Renaissance man, Leonard da Vinci, who was passionate about so many fields of study I wonder how he had time to pursue them all. Other notable polymaths, people who are experts in several subject areas, include Galileo, Noam Chomsky, Eratosthenes, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Blaise Pascal, all of whom have made significant contributions to our understanding of the world. I wonder if it is better to focus on just one passion, or does having a wide variety of subjects that excite us allow us to think more critically and develop more original ideas?
    Your post reminded me of what we are doing in this class, taking something we find interesting in the book and satisfying our curiosity by researching it. In fact, if you weren’t a curious person, I don’t think you would do very well in this class. I think by the end of the semester, we will be able to look back at each individual’s blog posts and discover a pattern in what we have researched, which might tell us something about our passions. As you suggest in your blog post, what makes us curious seems to define what we are passionate about.


  2. ballen68 says:

    Anna, I thought it was cool when you made the connection of motivation and curiosity to our blog posts. I always read the blogs that seem interesting to me, ones that I can relate to, or want to be able to relate to. I also always choose a topic that intrigues me, because we have been given the freedom to pursue whatever we are curious or passionate about.

    I have a couple things that I think I am going to research now about passion. The first thing I wonder about is how we are able to have so many passions sometimes. Some people like myself have a lot of passions, what creates the desire for so many passions versus just that one favorite thing. What plays into effect of what passions we end up choosing. Is how good we are at something also a trigger for becoming passionate for that particular thing? I have been blessed at being above average at a lot of things (but an expert at only few haha). I’m wondering now if that is possibly why I am passionate for many things. Then there are a lot of people who aren’t good at something, but they just really love it and become passionate about it. There are even a few things that I am not very good at, but am passionate about because it is just interesting. Art is one of those things in particular. I guess I am just CURIOUS to see if there is a link between how good you are at something and how passionate you are about that particular thing.



  3. Colin Murphy says:

    Hi Anna,

    Thanks for your well-written contribution to our class blog!

    You certainly are correct in noting how the key characters have found their passions well-before they’ve been held hostage. I chose to write on a similar topic this week – the force of habit. There does seem to be a key difference between the two topics, however; passion is conscious whereas habit is not. With passion, as you discuss, one makes a conscious effort to learn more and follow the “drive” for self-improvement. With habit, on the other hand, the drive still exists, though it is with more immediate a benefit when satisfaction is given.

    So, what really caught my attention was your research on brain plasticity. With habit, neural pathways similar to the ones you mention in your post serve as a physical force to influence behavior. I can understand how these neural connections can also affect the way a character is able to understand a new topic or grasp an idea – through repetition, the brain is conditioned to learn following a particular manner (i.e. math through explanation of our solar system). It will be interesting to see how the characters, now able to practice their passions while in the hostage situation, will act on their thoughts in new ways. Perhaps they will make an attempt to rebel? Or maybe they will choose to practice their passions independently and under control?

    It’s a curious thought. Again, you’ve an excellent post here, and I look forward to seeing how your research will explain the characters thoughts and actions in the coming chapters!

    – Colin


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