The Demand for, and Avoidance of, Information
118 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2012 Last revised: 1 Apr 2021
Date Written: March 30, 2021
We apply a previously developed "information gap" framework (Golman and Loewenstein, 2018) to better understand and predict information seeking and avoidance. The resulting theory posits that, beyond the conventional desire for information as an input to decision making, two additional motives contribute to the demand for information: curiosity—the desire to fill information gaps, i.e., to answer specific questions that capture attention; and motivated attention—the desire to savor good news and ignore bad news, i.e. to obtain information we like thinking about and avoid information we do not like thinking about. Five experiments (N= 2,361) test three of the primary hypotheses derived from the theory about the demand for information both when information is neutrally-valenced and when it is ego-relevant. People are more inclined to acquire information: a) when it seems more important, even when the information is not instrumental for decision making (Experiments 1A & 2A); b) when it is more salient, manipulated by how recently the information gap was opened (Experiments 1B & 2B); and c) when it has higher valence—i.e., when individuals anticipate receiving more favorable news (Experiment 2C). This set of findings demonstrates that we gain insight into informational preferences by recognizing how information gaps attract attention.
Keywords: curiosity, information, information gap, motivated attention, ostrich effect
JEL Classification: D81, D83
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation