What Do People Want to Know? Information Avoidance and Food Policy Implications

142 Pages Posted: 5 May 2021

See all articles by Cass R. Sunstein

Cass R. Sunstein

Harvard Law School; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Lucia Reisch

Copenhagen Business School; Zeppelin University Friedrichshafen

Micha Kaiser

Copenhagen Business School - Department of Management, Society and Communication; University of Hohenheim; Zeppelin University

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 4, 2021

Abstract

What information would people like to have? What information would they prefer to avoid? How does the provision of information bear on welfare? And what does this mean for food policy? Representative surveys in eleven nations find that substantial percentages of people do not want to receive information even when it bears on health, sustainability, and consumer welfare. Nonetheless, substantial percentages of people also do want to receive that information, and people’s willingness to pay for information, contingent on their wanting it, is mostly higher than people’s willingness to pay not to receive information, contingent on their not wanting it. We develop a model and estimate the welfare effects of information provision. We find substantial benefits and costs, with the former outweighing the latter. The results suggest that in principle, policymakers should take both instrumental and hedonic effects into account when deciding whether to impose disclosure requirements for food, whether the domain involves health, safety, or moral considerations. If policymakers fail to consider either instrumental or hedonic effects, and if they fail to consider the magnitude of those effects, they will not capture the welfare consequences of disclosure requirements. Our evidence has concrete implications for how to think about, and capture, the welfare consequences of such requirements with respect to food.

Keywords: Information avoidance, information seeking, willingness to pay, belief-based utility

JEL Classification: D00, D9, D11, D90, D91

Suggested Citation

Sunstein, Cass R. and Reisch, Lucia and Kaiser, Micha, What Do People Want to Know? Information Avoidance and Food Policy Implications (May 4, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3839513

Cass R. Sunstein

Harvard Law School ( email )

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Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Lucia Reisch (Contact Author)

Copenhagen Business School ( email )

Solbjerg Plads 3
Frederiksberg C, DK - 2000
Denmark

Zeppelin University Friedrichshafen ( email )

Am Seemooser Horn 20
Friedrichshafen, 88045
Germany

Micha Kaiser

Copenhagen Business School - Department of Management, Society and Communication ( email )

University of Hohenheim ( email )

Fruwirthstr. 48
Stuttgart, 70599
Germany

Zeppelin University ( email )

Am Seemooser Horn 20
Friedrichshafen, Lake Constance 88045
Germany

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