When Ignorance Is Innocence: On Information Avoidance in Moral Dilemmas
Posted: 18 May 2011 Last revised: 22 Apr 2019
Date Written: August 20, 2012
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N.B. This paper has been superseded by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: Suggested Citation