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Strategic Self-Ignorance

Author

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  • Thunstrom, Linda
  • Nordstrom, Jonas
  • Shogren, Jason F.
  • Ehmke, Mariah D.

Abstract

This paper analyzes if people use ignorance as an excuse to pursue immediate gratification, at the expense of future wellbeing, a behavior we label ‘strategic self-ignorance’. In a theoretical model we show that present-biased individuals benefit from choosing ignorance of the potentially negative impact of present consumption, and that ignorance leads to over consumption of harmful goods. In an experiment we empirically test for strategic self-ignorance. The experiment entails prepared meals, for which subjects may be familiar with the taste (immediate utility) but are uninformed of the calorie content (potential harm to future health). Subjects are offered costless information on the calorie content of the meal alternatives. A majority of subjects (58 percent) choose to remain ignorant of the calorie content, and ignorance leads to a significantly higher intake of calories. Our results imply that people are strategically self-ignorant and that such behavior may help explain over consumption of harmful goods.

Suggested Citation

  • Thunstrom, Linda & Nordstrom, Jonas & Shogren, Jason F. & Ehmke, Mariah D., 2012. "Strategic Self-Ignorance," 2012 Annual Meeting, August 12-14, 2012, Seattle, Washington 123949, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea12:123949
    DOI: 10.22004/ag.econ.123949
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    Other versions of this item:

    • Thunström, Linda & Nordström, Jonas & Shogren, Jason F. & Ehmke, Mariah & van 't Veld, Klaas, 2013. "Strategic Self-Ignorance," Working Papers 2013:17, Lund University, Department of Economics.

    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Strategic self-ignorance
      by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2013-08-14 19:52:00
    2. Is obesity an information problem?
      by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2012-06-27 19:16:00
    3. [経済]知りたくないの
      by himaginary in himaginaryの日記 on 2012-06-29 12:00:00

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    2. Daniele Pennesi, 2020. "Identity and information acquisition," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 610, Collegio Carlo Alberto, revised 2021.
    3. Jonas Nordström & Linda Thunström & Klaas van ’t Veld & Jason F. Shogren & Mariah Ehmke, 2018. "Strategic Ignorance of Health Risk: Its Causes and Policy Consequences," IFRO Working Paper 2018/09, University of Copenhagen, Department of Food and Resource Economics.
    4. Linda Thunström & Chian Jones Ritten, 2019. "Endogenous attention to costs," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 59(1), pages 1-22, August.
    5. Linda Thunström, 2019. "Welfare effects of nudges: The emotional tax of calorie menu labeling," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 14(1), pages 11-25, January.
    6. Linda Thunström & Klaas van ’t Veld & Jason F. Shogren & Jonas Nordström, 2014. "On strategic ignorance of environmental harm and social norms," Revue d'économie politique, Dalloz, vol. 124(2), pages 195-214.
    7. Sunstein, Cass R., 2021. "Viewpoint: Are food labels good?," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 99(C).
    8. Thunström, Linda & Gilbert, Ben & Ritten, Chian Jones, 2018. "Nudges that hurt those already hurting – distributional and unintended effects of salience nudges," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 153(C), pages 267-282.
    9. Lisa Bruttel & Werner Güth & Ralph Hertwig & Andreas Orland, 2020. "Do people harness deliberate ignorance to avoid envy and its detrimental effects?," CEPA Discussion Papers 17, Center for Economic Policy Analysis.
    10. W. Kip Viscusi, 2019. "Risk guideposts for a safer society: Introduction and overview," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 58(2), pages 101-119, June.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Demand and Price Analysis; Food Consumption/Nutrition/Food Safety; Health Economics and Policy;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness

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