Save the planet or close your eyes? Testing strategic ignorance in a charity context

Jo Thori Lind, Karine Nyborg, & Anna Pauls

Photo: Ecological Economics

Published in:

Ecological Economics, Volume 161, July 2019.

DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2019.02.010


Do people try to avoid unpleasant information about the environmental consequences of their actions? If so, do they react with hostility towards others who provide the unwanted information? Fearing such hostility, do others abstain from providing the information? These are the questions we set out to explore by means of lab experiments presented here. To our surprise, and in stark contrast to related previous literature, we found few indications of willful ignorance. In a binary dictator game with an environmental charity as the recipient, an option to stay uninformed about the effects of one's actions for the charity was infrequently chosen, and did not significantly affect generosity. When another subject might choose to impose information on the dictator, almost all dictators asked for information themselves – but this was not associated with increased dictator generosity. We argue that the phenomenon of strategic ignorance is likely to be less robust and more context-dependent than one might expect based on previous research, and that this result may be important from an environmental policy perspective.

Published July 24, 2019 10:58 AM - Last modified July 24, 2019 10:58 AM