Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Strategic self-ignorance

There are times were we kind of feel we have done something stupid and do not want to know the result. For example, the grade of a test or how a recently bought stock is faring. Such situations are linked to regret aversion, where you consciously try to block available information after a decision has been taken. What about blocking readily available information before you take a decision?

Linda Thunström, Jonas Nordström, Jason F. Shogren, Mariah Ehmke and Klaas van 't Veld relate to the case of temptation, where you consciously block out information about the consequences of your action. Specifically, think about a delicious but calorie-laden meal. You kind of know it is bad for your health, but you decide not to look at the calorie count, although it is available. And that is what they had people do in a experiment where they invited people for lunch with two option: a low and an high calorie meal. It was, however, not obvious which one was high calorie, and participants could look it up. 58% chose not to and ate significantly more calories. How do the self-ignorant differ from the control group? It should not surprise anyone that they smoke more, have lower incomes, know less about nutrition and are more impatient. More interesting is that they are over-represented among males, educated and older people. Having a higher body-mass index leads to less self-ignorance. I wonder whether some of those results are endogenous to the setup of the experiment, where all those questions about nutrition are asked, which may lead people to become more conscious about their weight, especially less educated ones.

PS: too bad the equations in the paper are unreadable. Never use the Word equation editor...


Anonymous said...

There are times where....I think you meant where and not were

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comment about Word equations. Our next paper will use LaTeX instead of Word.