The Paradox of Alypius and the Pursuit of Unwanted Information
39 Pages Posted: 20 Nov 2006
Date Written: September 1, 2006
Prior work has found that people occasionally seek useless information, a violation of strict rationality. The present work examined whether and why curiosity can also cause individuals to seek harmful information. In five experiments, participants were given the opportunity to gain knowledge of questionable personal value. In each case, participants focused on their curiosity about the information and underweighted its consequences. As a result, participants tended to seek knowledge that they believed they would be better off without. Consistent with Loewenstein's (1996) analysis of visceral factors in decision making, these effects diminished with a time delay and when deciding whether to expose someone else to unpleasant information. These results present a counterpoint to traditional hedonistic models of human motivation.
Keywords: curiosity, judgment and decision making, heuristics and biases, motivation
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