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The value of useless information

There are many situations in which individuals have a choice of whether or not to observe eventual outcomes. In these instances, individuals often prefer to remain ignorant. These contexts are outside the scope of analysis of the standard von Neumann-Morgenstern (vNM) expected utility model, which does not distinguish between lotteries for which the agent sees the final outcome and those for which he does not. I develop a simple model that admits preferences for making an observation or for remaining in doubt. I then use this model to analyze the connection between preferences of this nature and risk-attitude. This framework accommodates a wide array of behavioral patterns that violate the vNM model, and that may not seem related, prima facie. For instance, it admits self-handicapping, in which an agent chooses to impair his own performance. It also accommodates a status quo bias without having recourse to framing effects, or to an explicit definition of reference points. In a political economy context, voters have strict incentives to shield themselves from information. In settings with other-regarding preferences, this model predicts observed behavior that seems inconsistent with either altruism or self-interested behavior.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 1313.

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Date of creation: Apr 2012
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Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:1313
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.econ.upf.edu/

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  1. Diecidue, Enrico & Wakker, Peter P, 2001. " On the Intuition of Rank-Dependent Utility," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 23(3), pages 281-98, November.
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  3. Benabou, Roland & Tirole, Jean, 2004. "Belief in a Just World and Redistributive Politics," Papers 08-15-2005a, Princeton University, Research Program in Political Economy.
  4. Uzi Segal, 1989. "Two-Stage Lotteries Without the Reduction Axiom," UCLA Economics Working Papers 552, UCLA Department of Economics.
  5. Simon Grant & Atsushi Kajii & Ben Polak, 2000. "Temporal Resolution of Uncertainty and Recursive Non-Expected Utility Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(2), pages 425-434, March.
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  10. 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.
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  13. Dillenberger, David, 2008. "Preferences for One-Shot Resolution of Uncertainty and Allais-Type Behavior," MPRA Paper 8342, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  14. Dekel, Eddie, 1986. "An axiomatic characterization of preferences under uncertainty: Weakening the independence axiom," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 304-318, December.
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  17. David M Kreps & Evan L Porteus, 1978. "Temporal Resolution of Uncertainty and Dynamic Choice Theory," Levine's Working Paper Archive 625018000000000009, David K. Levine.
  18. Quiggin, John, 1982. "A theory of anticipated utility," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 323-343, December.
  19. Epstein, Larry G & Zin, Stanley E, 1989. "Substitution, Risk Aversion, and the Temporal Behavior of Consumption and Asset Returns: A Theoretical Framework," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(4), pages 937-69, July.
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  22. repec:ner:tilbur:urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-80656 is not listed on IDEAS
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