We may not always be aware of it, but we all practice deliberate ignorance. In other words, we consciously choose not to seek or use information. This is as true for individuals as it is, for example, for organizations, welfare economics, and law. But where exactly does deliberate ignorance play a role? And when is it a blessing, when a curse? In our feature, we present examples and consider possible implications.
Intentionally foregoing information can be a good decision for both dividuals and society
We live in a knowledge society in which science and education is of particular importance. Knowledge is also considered a key driver for economic growth. But under certain circumstances, we all benefit from deliberate ignorance. Ralph Hertwig, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, and Christoph Engel, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, explain why deliberately foregoing information in certain areas should even be prescribed and taught.
Deliberately ignoring information can sometimes lead to better decisions. This can also be the case in the relationship between the market and the state—that is, in whether the state should intervene in the economy to correct for a market failure, for example. Economist Felix Bierbrauer presents examples from welfare economics and considers the potential effects on fairness, freedom, and individual motivation.
Why do people choose not to know and when it is legitimate to do so?