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Strategic Self-Ignorance

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  • Thunstrom, Linda
  • Nordstrom, Jonas
  • Shogren, Jason F.
  • Ehmke, Mariah D.

Abstract

This paper analyzes if people use ignorance as an excuse to pursue immediate gratification, at the expense of future wellbeing, a behavior we label ‘strategic self-ignorance’. In a theoretical model we show that present-biased individuals benefit from choosing ignorance of the potentially negative impact of present consumption, and that ignorance leads to over consumption of harmful goods. In an experiment we empirically test for strategic self-ignorance. The experiment entails prepared meals, for which subjects may be familiar with the taste (immediate utility) but are uninformed of the calorie content (potential harm to future health). Subjects are offered costless information on the calorie content of the meal alternatives. A majority of subjects (58 percent) choose to remain ignorant of the calorie content, and ignorance leads to a significantly higher intake of calories. Our results imply that people are strategically self-ignorant and that such behavior may help explain over consumption of harmful goods.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Agricultural and Applied Economics Association in its series 2012 Annual Meeting, August 12-14, 2012, Seattle, Washington with number 123949.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea12:123949

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Related research

Keywords: strategic ignorance; harmful consumption; experiment; Demand and Price Analysis; Food Consumption/Nutrition/Food Safety; Health Economics and Policy;

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  1. Broberg, Tomas & Ellingsen, Tore & Johannesson, Magnus, 2007. "Is generosity involuntary?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 94(1), pages 32-37, January.
  2. James Andreoni & Ragan Petrie, 2003. "Public Goods Experiments Without Confidentiality: A Glimpse Into Fund-Raising," Levine's Working Paper Archive 506439000000000520, David K. Levine.
  3. Carrillo, Juan D & Mariotti, Thomas, 2000. "Strategic Ignorance as a Self-Disciplining Device," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(3), pages 529-44, July.
  4. James Andreoni, 2007. "Social Image and the 50-50 Norm: A Theoretical and Experimental Analysis of Audience Effects," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000001459, UCLA Department of Economics.
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Blog mentions

As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. Strategic self-ignorance
    by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2013-08-14 14:52:00
  2. Is obesity an information problem?
    by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2012-06-27 14:16:00
  3. [??]???????
    by himaginary in himaginaryの日記 on 2012-06-29 07:00:00
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Cited by:
  1. Thunström, Linda & van 't Veld, Klaas & Shogren, Jason F. & Nordström, Jonas, 2013. "On Strategic Ignorance of Environmental Harm and Social Norms," Working Papers 2013:22, Lund University, Department of Economics.

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