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Self-Image and Strategic Ignorance in Moral Dilemmas

  • Grossman, Zachary
  • van der Weele, Joël

Avoiding information about adverse welfare consequences of self-interested decisions, orstrategic ignorance, is an important source of corruption, anti-social behavior and even atrocities. We model an agent who cares about self-image and has the opportunity to learn the social benefits of a personally costly action. The trade-off between self-image concerns and material payoffs can lead the agent to use ignorance as an excuse, even if it is deliberately chosen. Two experiments, modeled after Dana, Weber, and Kuang (2007), show that a) many people will reveal relevant information about others' payoffs after making an ethical decision, but not before, and b) some people are willing to pay for ignorance. These results corroborate the idea that Bayesian self-signaling drives people to avoid inconvenient facts in moral decisions.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara in its series University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series with number qt0bp6z29t.

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Date of creation: 15 Mar 2013
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Handle: RePEc:cdl:ucsbec:qt0bp6z29t
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  1. Grossman, Zachary, 2010. "Self-Signaling Versus Social-Signaling in Giving," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt7320x2cp, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  2. Christoph Engel, 2011. "Dictator games: a meta study," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 14(4), pages 583-610, November.
  3. Philippe Aghion & Jean Tirole, 1994. "Formal and Real Authority in Organizations," Working papers 95-8, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  4. Carrillo, Juan D & Mariotti, Thomas, 2000. "Strategic Ignorance as a Self-Disciplining Device," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(3), pages 529-44, July.
  5. George Loewenstein & Don Moore & Roberto Weber, 2006. "Misperceiving the value of information in predicting the performance of others," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 281-295, September.
  6. Silvia Dominguez-Martinez & Randolph Sloof & Ferdinand von Siemens, 2010. "Monitoring your Friends, not your Foes: Strategic Ignorance and the Delegation of Real Authority," CESifo Working Paper Series 3172, CESifo Group Munich.
  7. Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2001. "Psychological Expected Utility Theory And Anticipatory Feelings," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(1), pages 55-79, February.
  8. Tore Ellingsen & Magnus Johannesson, 2008. "Pride and Prejudice: The Human Side of Incentive Theory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(3), pages 990-1008, June.
  9. Erin L. Krupka & Roberto A. Weber, 2013. "Identifying Social Norms Using Coordination Games: Why Does Dictator Game Sharing Vary?," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(3), pages 495-524, 06.
  10. Urs Fischbacher & Franziska Föllmi-Heusi, 2013. "Lies In Disguise—An Experimental Study On Cheating," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(3), pages 525-547, 06.
  11. Murnighan, J. Keith & Oesch, John M. & Pillutla, Madan, 2001. "Player Types and Self-Impression Management in Dictatorship Games: Two Experiments," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 388-414, November.
  12. Tara Larson & C. Monica Capra, 2009. "Exploiting moral wiggle room: Illusory preference for fairness? A comment," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 4(6), pages 467-474, October.
  13. repec:dgr:uvatin:20100101 is not listed on IDEAS
  14. Markus Mobius & Muriel Niederle & Paul Niehaus & Tanya S. Rosenblat, 2011. "Managing self-confidence: theory and experimental evidence," Working Papers 11-14, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  15. Roberto Burlando & Francesco Guala, 2005. "Heterogeneous Agents in Public Goods Experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 8(1), pages 35-54, April.
  16. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  17. Conrads, Julian & Irlenbusch, Bernd, 2011. "Strategic Ignorance in Bargaining," IZA Discussion Papers 6087, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  18. Jason Dana & Roberto Weber & Jason Kuang, 2007. "Exploiting moral wiggle room: experiments demonstrating an illusory preference for fairness," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 33(1), pages 67-80, October.
  19. Nyborg, Karine, 2008. "I Don't Want to Hear About it: Rational Ignorance among Duty-Oriented Consumers," Memorandum 15/2008, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
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