When Ignorance Is Innocence: On Information Avoidance in Moral Dilemmas

Posted: 18 May 2011 Last revised: 22 Apr 2019

See all articles by Joel J. van der Weele

Joel J. van der Weele

University of Amsterdam - Center for Experimental Economics and political Decision making (CREED); Tinbergen Institute; Center for Financial Studies (CFS)

Date Written: August 20, 2012

Abstract

Avoiding information about adverse welfare consequences of self-interested decisions, or "strategic ignorance", is an important source of corruption, anti-social behavior and even atrocities. I show how existing experimental results on strategic ignorance can be rationalized as an equilibrium trade-off between image concerns and material desires. An experimental test of the model's predictions yields that ignorance decreases when prosocial behavior is cheap and potential harm to others is large, and that some people are willing to pay to remain ignorant. The results provide clear evidence that people avoid knowing "inconvenient" facts.

N.B. This paper has been superseded by
Grossman, Z. and J. van der Weele (2017), “Self image and willful ignorance in social decisions”, Journal of the European Economic Association,15:1,153-217.

Note: A revised an updated version of this paper is available as "Self-image and strategic ignorance in social decisions" on SSRN.

Keywords: strategic ignorance, pro-social behavior, experimental economics, signaling games

JEL Classification: D83, C72, C91

Suggested Citation

van der Weele, Joel J., When Ignorance Is Innocence: On Information Avoidance in Moral Dilemmas (August 20, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1844702 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1844702

Joel J. Van der Weele (Contact Author)

University of Amsterdam - Center for Experimental Economics and political Decision making (CREED) ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/joelvdweele/

Tinbergen Institute ( email )

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Center for Financial Studies (CFS) ( email )

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