Strategic ignorance of health risk: its causes and policy consequences

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBehavioural Public Policy
Number of pages32
ISSN2398-0648
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Jan 2020

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Science - strategic ignorance, willful ignorance, optimal expectations, calories, information, labling, restaurant
  • Faculty of Social Sciences - strategic ignorance, willful ignorance, risk perception, optimal expectations, calories, restaurant, information, labeling

ID: 235073561