Information avoidance in a polarized society
26 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2021
Date Written: November 15, 2021
Many recent studies have focused on the issues of growing polarization and its behavioral dimensions. Specifically, it is crucial to understand the extent to which holders of opposite positions on polarizing matters are ready to punish each other, simply for holding these positions. However worrisome, this paper claims that this affective polarization may not be as bad as we might think. Unlike the many studies that focus on polarization, this well-powered (N=800), pre-registered study explores how the degree of control over the information available to a dictator in a give-or-take dictator game affects the degree of polarization. We let dictators choose whether they want to know their partners’ position (either before or after the transfer decision is made). The study shows that more than 30% of dictators prefer to stay ignorant, and that substantially decreased the polarization gap (the difference in transfer amounts towards those recipients who have the same or opposite position as a dictator). We also have found that beliefs about the expected polarization gap among those who choose to remain uninformed is significantly smaller than among those who choose to know their partner’s position. Thus, offering a choice to know – or not know about a person’s polarized views is an important parameter to include when we make inferences about the effects of polarization.
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