Strategic ignorance of health risk: its causes and policy consequences

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We examine the causes and policy implications of strategic (willful) ignorance of risk as an excuse to over-engage in risky health behavior. In an experiment on Copenhagen adults, we allow subjects to choose whether to learn the calorie content of a meal before consuming it and then measure their subsequent calorie intake. Consistent with previous studies, we find strong evidence of strategic ignorance: 46% of subjects choose to ignore calorie information, and these subjects subsequently consume more calories on average than they would have had they been informed. While previous studies have focused on self-control as the motivating factor for strategic ignorance of calorie information, we find that ignorance in our study is instead motivated by optimal expectations – subjects choose ignorance so that they can downplay the probability of their preferred meal being high-calorie. We discuss how the motivation matters to policy. Further, we find that the prevalence of strategic ignorance largely negates the effects of calorie information provision: on average, subjects who have the option to ignore calorie information consume the same number of calories as subjects who are provided no information.
TidsskriftBehavioural Public Policy
Antal sider32
StatusE-pub ahead of print - 27 jan. 2020

ID: 235073561