Why do people want to know things

Why we prefer not to know certain things

Information avoidance
Many people deny themselves useful knowledge. Less is often more here.
A study shows that there is often something that people prefer not to know.

You have to know that

  • The more we know, the better decisions we can make.
  • Yet many people deliberately avoid useful information and avoid potentially bad news.
  • In which situations someone does this is very individual. The impatient, for example, often prefer ignorance.
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Ignorance does not protect against punishment - and also not against health consequences. Even so, in some situations we prefer not to know anything. For example, when it comes to how many calories your favorite cake has. But how often do we prefer to remain uninformed, and on which topics? American researchers have now developed a method with which they can better describe information avoiders. Your study, which was published in the specialist journal Management Science, shows that it is common for people not to want to know something.

Science check ✓

Study: Measuring Information PreferencesCommentThis is a comment by the author.The study uses specific scenarios and, unlike other studies before it, can thus describe the frequency and characteristics of information avoidance for the first time in a context that is as realistic as possible. However, since only eleven scenarios were examined and these are very specific, it is difficult to generalize the results. The study provides information, but does not yet provide any evidence.More information about this study ...Reliability: Peer-reviewed, a total of 2400 participants spread over three different analyzes within the main study.Study type: Observational study.Funders: No information. All information about the higgs science check

To measure preferences for information, the researchers developed eleven hypothetical scenarios. In each of these, volunteers could indicate whether they wanted to receive certain information or would rather remain ignorant. For example, as part of a medical examination, your doctor asks you a series of questions that can be used to estimate how old you are going to be. Do you want to know what your life expectancy is? Or: You took part in a psychological study in which you had to state how attractive you found the other participants. You too have been rated by everyone else. Do you want to know what came out of it?

The scenarios covered three areas of life: your own health, finances and how other people perceive you. The researchers chose this because it is known that people particularly often avoid information here. And there are topics where the truth can be uncomfortable - but knowledge also brings advantages, for example in order to make better decisions. Knowing about a certain disease can help treat it at an early stage, for example.



In the end, the respondents had to assess for themselves whether or not they belonged to those who might avoid unpleasant information. A total of over 2,400 people took part. The result: across all scenarios, between 17 and 51 percent of respondents preferred to remain uninformed. While most of these related to specific areas of life, there were also some who generally preferred to know less. Impatient people seem to avoid potentially negative information - for example, whether they might get Alzheimer's - and thus prefer blissful ignorance to painful truth. On the other hand, more risk-taking people are also more willing to receive bad news.

Political orientation, gender, age and the type of education did not play a role. Much more, we all prefer to be ignorant in certain situations. And thus create our own, pleasant reality.

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