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Self-Image and Strategic Ignorance in Moral Dilemmas

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  • Grossman, Zachary
  • van der Weele, Joël

Abstract

Avoiding information about adverse welfare consequences of self-interested decisions, orstrategic ignorance, is an important source of corruption, anti-social behavior and even atrocities. We model an agent who cares about self-image and has the opportunity to learn the social benefits of a personally costly action. The trade-off between self-image concerns and material payoffs can lead the agent to use ignorance as an excuse, even if it is deliberately chosen. Two experiments, modeled after Dana, Weber, and Kuang (2007), show that a) many people will reveal relevant information about others' payoffs after making an ethical decision, but not before, and b) some people are willing to pay for ignorance. These results corroborate the idea that Bayesian self-signaling drives people to avoid inconvenient facts in moral decisions.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara in its series University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series with number qt0bp6z29t.

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Date of creation: 15 Mar 2013
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Handle: RePEc:cdl:ucsbec:qt0bp6z29t

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Keywords: Social and Behavioral Sciences; prosocial behavior; dictator games; strategic ignorance; self-signaling;

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References

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  1. Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2001. "Psychological Expected Utility Theory And Anticipatory Feelings," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 116(1), pages 55-79, February.
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  3. Conrads, Julian & Irlenbusch, Bernd, 2011. "Strategic Ignorance in Bargaining," IZA Discussion Papers 6087, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  7. Urs Fischbacher & Franziska Heusi, 2008. "Lies in Disguise. An experimental study on cheating," TWI Research Paper Series, Thurgauer Wirtschaftsinstitut, Universität Konstanz 40, Thurgauer Wirtschaftsinstitut, Universität Konstanz.
  8. Ellingsen, Tore & Johannesson, Magnus, 2006. "Pride and Prejudice: The Human Side of Incentive Theory," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 5768, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  10. Nyborg, Karine, 2008. "I Don't Want to Hear About it: Rational Ignorance among Duty-Oriented Consumers," Memorandum, Oslo University, Department of Economics 15/2008, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
  11. Grossman, Zachary, 2010. "Self-Signaling Versus Social-Signaling in Giving," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara qt7320x2cp, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
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  13. Erin L. Krupka & Roberto A. Weber, 2013. "Identifying Social Norms Using Coordination Games: Why Does Dictator Game Sharing Vary?," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(3), pages 495-524, 06.
  14. Jason Dana & Roberto Weber & Jason Kuang, 2007. "Exploiting moral wiggle room: experiments demonstrating an illusory preference for fairness," Economic Theory, Springer, Springer, vol. 33(1), pages 67-80, October.
  15. Silvia Dominguez-Martinez & Randolph Sloof & Ferdinand von Siemens, 2010. "Monitoring your Friends, not your Foes: Strategic Ignorance and the Delegation of Real Authority," CESifo Working Paper Series, CESifo Group Munich 3172, CESifo Group Munich.
  16. Murnighan, J. Keith & Oesch, John M. & Pillutla, Madan, 2001. "Player Types and Self-Impression Management in Dictatorship Games: Two Experiments," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 388-414, November.
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Cited by:
  1. Conrads, Julian & Irlenbusch, Bernd, 2013. "Strategic ignorance in ultimatum bargaining," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 104-115.
  2. Agne Kajackaite, 2014. "If I close my eyes, nobody will get hurt. The effect of ignorance on performance in a real effort experiment," Cologne Graduate School Working Paper Series, Cologne Graduate School in Management, Economics and Social Sciences 05-03, Cologne Graduate School in Management, Economics and Social Sciences.
  3. Joël J. van der Weele & Ferdinand von Siemens, 2014. "Bracelets of Pride and Guilt? An Experimental Test of Self-Signaling in Charitable Giving," CESifo Working Paper Series, CESifo Group Munich 4674, CESifo Group Munich.

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