Why We Think Ignorance Is Bliss, Even When It Hurts Our Health
by Shankar Vedantam
July 28, 2014
Medical tests are rarely a pleasant experience, especially if you’re worried that something could be seriously wrong. That’s true even though we know that regular screenings and tests often help doctors catch issues early.
But of course, humans don’t always behave rationally.
Sometimes people will go to great lengths to avoid hearing bad news.
Social scientists call this sort of behavior information aversion, or the ostrich effect (based on the old myth that ostriches bury their heads in the sand when they’re scared). And it can have important implications for our health, researchers say.
… It has two forms, one is unpleasant and the other is even worse.
Fantasy and Dread: The Demand for Information and the Consumption Utility of the Future
Ananda R. Ganguly, et al.
Claremont McKenna College – Robert Day School of Economics and Finance
Understanding the properties of intrinsic information preference is important for predicting behavior in many domains including finance and health. We present evidence that intrinsic demand for information about the future is increasing in expected future consumption utility. In the first experiment subjects may resolve a lottery now or later. The information is useless for decision making but the larger the reward, the more likely subjects are to pay to resolve the lottery early. In the second experiment subjects may pay to avoid being tested for HSV-1 and the more highly feared HSV-2. Subjects are three times more likely to avoid testing for HSV-2, suggesting that more aversive outcomes lead to more information avoidance. We also find that intrinsic information demand is negatively correlated with positive affect and ambiguity aversion.
- anticipatory utility,
- information avoidance,
- positive affect,
- information-consumption complementarity,
- preference for presence