I’m in a Hurry, I Don’t Want to Know! Strategic Ignorance Under Time Pressure

Journal of Experimental Psychology: General

14 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2020 Last revised: 1 Jul 2022

See all articles by Johannes Jarke-Neuert

Johannes Jarke-Neuert

University of Hamburg - Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability (CEN)

Johannes Lohse

University of Birmingham - Birmingham Business School

Date Written: October 11, 2020

Abstract

Information avoidance is common when privately beneficial choices have uncertain and potentially
adverse effects on others. A dominant theory holds that such “strategic ignorance” allows decision makers to circumvent inner moral conflict while acting self-servingly. In extension of this theory, we
hypothesize that time pressure elevates the prevalence of strategic ignorance. We conduct a laboratory experiment with resolvable payoff uncertainty to test this hypothesis. We find that time pressure indeed significantly increases the incidence of information avoidance. As a result, self-serving choices are more common than in a baseline without time pressure. We empirically explore several potential interpretations of this main finding. First, in a control condition, in which payoffs are fully transparent, time pressure has no direct effect on self-serving behavior. This speaks against a general tendency to act more self-servingly or fairly under time pressure. Second, a follow-up study shows that information avoidance under time pressure is attributable to conflict avoidance, rather than providing decision makers with a convenient excuse for not becoming informed. We discuss these observations in the context of a recent body of literature on the cognitive underpinnings of prosocial behavior and argue that they have significant implications for information-based approaches to public policy.

Keywords: Information Acquisition, Stategic Ignorance, Information Avoidance, Other-Regarding Preferences, Moral Conflict, Social Cognition

JEL Classification: C91, D01, D83, D91

Suggested Citation

Jarke-Neuert, Johannes and Lohse, Johannes, I’m in a Hurry, I Don’t Want to Know! Strategic Ignorance Under Time Pressure (October 11, 2020). Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3699289 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3699289

Johannes Jarke-Neuert (Contact Author)

University of Hamburg - Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability (CEN) ( email )

Bundesstrasse 53
Hamburg, Hamburg 20146
Germany

Johannes Lohse

University of Birmingham - Birmingham Business School ( email )

Edgbaston Park Road
Birmingham, B15 2TY
United Kingdom

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