Deliberately avoiding information about potentially harmful consequences of self-interested decisions, or 'strategic ignorance,' is an important source of corruption, anti-social behavior and even atrocities. This paper provides a theory that analyzes strategic ignorance as the outcome of a rational trade-off between image concerns and material desires. The model accommodates the findings of several existing experiments and generates new predictions about the determinants of strategic ignorance. An experimental test of these predictions shows that strategic ignorance increases when helping others comes at a higher personal cost. Moreover, the amount of strategic ignorance does not decrease if a self-interested decision is more likely to harm others.
Place: conference room J/K 2.50