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Do people harness deliberate ignorance to avoid envy and its detrimental effects?

Author

Listed:
  • Lisa Bruttel

    (University of Potsdam, Germany)

  • Werner Güth

    (Max Planck Institute for Collective Goods, Bonn, Germany)

  • Ralph Hertwig

    (Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany)

  • Andreas Orland

    (University of Potsdam, Germany)

Abstract

Envy is an unpleasant emotion. If individuals anticipate that comparing their payoff with the (potentially higher) payoff of others will make them envious, they may want to actively avoid information about other people’s payoffs. Given the opportunity to reduce another person’s payoff, an individual’s envy may trigger behavior that is detrimental to welfare. In this case, if individuals anticipate that they will react in a welfare-reducing way, they may also avoid information about other people’s payoffs from the outset. We investigated these two hypotheses using three experiments. We found that 13% of our potentially envious subjects avoided information when they did not have the opportunity to reduce another participant’s payoff. Psychological scales do not explain this behavior. We also found that voluntarily uninformed subjects did neither deduct less of the payoff nor less frequently than subjects who could not avoid the information.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:pot:cepadp:17
    DOI: 10.25932/publishup-44446
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    envy; emotion regulation; deliberate ignorance; punishment; experiment;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making

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