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Save the planet or close your eyes? Testing strategic ignorance in a charity context

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  • Lind, Jo Thori
  • Nyborg, Karine
  • Pauls, Anna

Abstract

Do people try to avoid unpleasant information about the environmental consequences of their actions? If so, do they react with hostility towards others who provide the unwanted information? Fearing such hostility, do others abstain from providing the information? These are the questions we set out to explore by means of lab experiments presented here. To our surprise, and in stark contrast to related previous literature, we found few indications of willful ignorance. In a binary dictator game with an environmental charity as the recipient, an option to stay uninformed about the effects of one's actions for the charity was infrequently chosen, and did not significantly affect generosity. When another subject might choose to impose information on the dictator, almost all dictators asked for information themselves – but this was not associated with increased dictator generosity. We argue that the phenomenon of strategic ignorance is likely to be less robust and more context-dependent than one might expect based on previous research, and that this result may be important from an environmental policy perspective.

Suggested Citation

  • Lind, Jo Thori & Nyborg, Karine & Pauls, Anna, 2019. "Save the planet or close your eyes? Testing strategic ignorance in a charity context," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 161(C), pages 9-19.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:161:y:2019:i:c:p:9-19
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2019.02.010
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    Cited by:

    1. Momsen, Katharina & Ohndorf, Markus, 2020. "Information Avoidance, Selective Exposure, and Fake(?) News - A Market Experiment," VfS Annual Conference 2020 (Virtual Conference): Gender Economics 224637, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    2. Fanghella, Valeria & Thøgersen, John, 2022. "Experimental evidence of moral cleansing in the interpersonal and environmental domains," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 97(C).
    3. Momsen, Katharina & Ohndorf, Markus, 2022. "Information avoidance, selective exposure, and fake (?) news: Theory and experimental evidence on green consumption," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 88(C).
    4. Umer, Hamza & Kurosaki, Takashi & Iwasaki, Ichiro, 2022. "Unearned Endowment and Charity Recipient Lead to Higher Donations: A Meta-Analysis of the Dictator Game Lab Experiments," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 97(C).
    5. Shaul Shalvi & Ivan Soraperra & Joël van der Weele & Marie Claire Villeval, 2019. "Shooting the Messenger? Supply and Demand in Markets for Willful Ignorance," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 19-071/I, Tinbergen Institute.
    6. Davide Pace & Joël van der Weele, 2020. "Curbing Carbon: An Experiment on Uncertainty and Information about CO2 emissions," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 20-059/I, Tinbergen Institute.
    7. Katharina Momsen & Markus Ohndorf, 2019. "Information Avoidance, Selective Exposure, and Fake(?) News-A Green Market Experiment," Working Papers 2019-18, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.
    8. Momsen, Katharina & Ohndorf, Markus, 2020. "When do people exploit moral wiggle room? An experimental analysis of information avoidance in a market setup," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 169(C).
    9. Friedrichsen, Jana & Momsen, Katharina & Piasenti, Stefano, 2022. "Ignorance, intention and stochastic outcomes," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.
    10. Jana Friedrichsen & Katharina Momsen & Stefano Piasenti, 2020. "Ignorance, Intention and Stochastic Outcomes," Working Papers 2020-31, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.
    11. Katharina Momsen & Markus Ohndorf, 2020. "Expressive Voting vs. Self-Serving Ignorance," Working Papers 2020-33, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.
    12. Feldhaus, Christoph & Gleue, Marvin & Löschel, Andreas & Werner, Peter, 2022. "Co-benefits motivate individual donations to mitigate climate change," Research Memorandum 004, Maastricht University, Graduate School of Business and Economics (GSBE).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Strategic ignorance; Dictator game; Experiment; Social sanctions; Carbon offset;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • Q50 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - General

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