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Curiosity, Information Gaps, and the Utility of Knowledge

25 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2012 Last revised: 13 May 2015

Russell Golman

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences

George Loewenstein

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences

Date Written: April 16, 2015

Abstract

We use an information-gap framework to capture the diverse motives driving the preference to obtain or avoid information. Beyond the conventional desire for information as an input to decision making, people are driven by curiosity, which is a desire for knowledge for its own sake, even in the absence of material benefits, and people are additionally motivated to seek out information about issues they like thinking about and avoid information about issues they do not like thinking about (an “ostrich effect”). The standard economic framework is enriched with the insights that knowledge has valence, that ceteris paribus people want to fill in information gaps, and that, beyond contributing to knowledge, information affects the focus of attention.

Keywords: curiosity, information, information gap, motivated attention, ostrich effect

JEL Classification: D81, D83

Suggested Citation

Golman, Russell and Loewenstein, George, Curiosity, Information Gaps, and the Utility of Knowledge (April 16, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2149362 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2149362

Russell Golman (Contact Author)

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

George Loewenstein

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States
412-268-8787 (Phone)
412-268-6938 (Fax)

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