Shooting the Messenger? Supply and Demand in Markets for Willful Ignorance
Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper 2019-071/I
48 Pages Posted: 15 Oct 2019
Date Written: October 2, 2019
We investigate the role of advisers in the transmission of ethically relevant information, a critical aspect of executive decision making in organizations. In our laboratory experiment, advisers are informed about the negative externalities associated with the decision-maker's choices and compete with other advisers. We find that advisers suppress about a quarter of "inconvenient'' information. Suppression is not strategic, but based on the advisers' own preferences in the ethical dilemma. On the demand side, a substantial minority of decision makers avoid advisers who transmit inconvenient information (they "shoot the messenger"). Overall, by facilitating assortative matching, a competitive market for advisers efficiently caters to the demand for both information and information avoidance. Decision-makers are less likely to implement their preferred option when they are randomly matched to advisers and there is no scope for assortative matching.
Keywords: self-deception, information avoidance, unethical behavior, experiment
JEL Classification: D91, C91, D83, D82
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation