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If I close my eyes, nobody will get hurt: The effect of ignorance on performance in a real-effort experiment


  • Kajackaite, Agne


This paper tests whether choosing to stay ignorant about the negative consequences of one's own actions affects performance in a real-effort experiment. In the experiment, participants’ effort increased only their own payoff or also the donation to a negatively perceived charity. We introduced ignorance by letting agents decide whether to learn if the effort benefits the charity. As expected, agents exerted significantly higher efforts if they knew the negatively perceived charity would receive no benefits. Yet, when given the choice, almost one-third of the agents chose to stay ignorant and exert significantly more effort than agents who knew their effort would benefit the charity. Importantly, if the uncertainty about the donation to the charity was introduced exogenously, agents exerted lower effort than ignorant agents, which suggests that not having information about the consequences of one's own actions alone does not lead to self-interested behavior, but rather, the sorting of social agents of a low type into ignorance drives self-interested behavior of ignorant agents.

Suggested Citation

  • Kajackaite, Agne, 2015. "If I close my eyes, nobody will get hurt: The effect of ignorance on performance in a real-effort experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 518-524.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:116:y:2015:i:c:p:518-524
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2015.05.020

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    Ignorance; Moral wiggle room; Experiment; Real effort; Sorting;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D80 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - General
    • M52 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Compensation and Compensation Methods and Their Effects


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