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Strategic Ignorance and the Robustness of Social Preferences

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  • Zachary Grossman

    () (Department of Economics, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California 93106)

Abstract

Participants in dictator games frequently avoid learning whether their choice to maximize their own earnings will help or hurt the recipient and then choose selfishly, exploiting the “moral wiggle room” provided by their ignorance. However, this is found in an environment in which the dictator must actively learn the true payoffs, so inaction means ignorance. Does this effect persist when one must actively choose either to be ignorant or to be informed or when one must actively choose to remain ignorant? In fact, whereas 45% of dictators remain ignorant when one must click to become informed, this drops to 25% when one must click in either case and to 3% when one must click to remain ignorant. Although the exploitation of moral wiggle room is not merely an artifact, it is, much like social behavior itself, subject to environmental and psychological factors that may reinforce or undermine its impact.Data, as supplemental material, are available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.2014.1989 . This paper was accepted by Uri Gneezy, behavioral economics .

Suggested Citation

  • Zachary Grossman, 2014. "Strategic Ignorance and the Robustness of Social Preferences," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 60(11), pages 2659-2665, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:60:y:2014:i:11:p:2659-2665
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.2014.1989
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    References listed on IDEAS

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