The value of useless information
AbstractThere are many situations in which individuals have a choice of whether or not to observe eventual outcomes. In these instances, individuals often prefer to remain ignorant. These contexts are outside the scope of analysis of the standard von Neumann-Morgenstern (vNM) expected utility model, which does not distinguish between lotteries for which the agent sees the final outcome and those for which he does not. I develop a simple model that admits preferences for making an observation or for remaining in doubt. I then use this model to analyze the connection between preferences of this nature and risk-attitude. This framework accommodates a wide array of behavioral patterns that violate the vNM model, and that may not seem related, prima facie. For instance, it admits self-handicapping, in which an agent chooses to impair his own performance. It also accommodates a status quo bias without having recourse to framing effects, or to an explicit definition of reference points. In a political economy context, voters have strict incentives to shield themselves from information. In settings with other-regarding preferences, this model predicts observed behavior that seems inconsistent with either altruism or self-interested behavior.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 1313.
Date of creation: Apr 2012
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Value of information; uncertainty; recursive utility; doubt; unobserved outcomes; unresolved lotteries;
Other versions of this item:
- D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Economics; Underlying Principles
- D80 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - General
- D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
- D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2012-07-01 (All new papers)
- NEP-HPE-2012-07-01 (History & Philosophy of Economics)
- NEP-MIC-2012-07-01 (Microeconomics)
- NEP-UPT-2012-07-01 (Utility Models & Prospect Theory)
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