Summary: A new study has found that 40% of individuals choose to remain ignorant about the consequences of their decisions, using this lack of awareness to act selfishly. The research draws parallels between this behavior and consumers who ignore the problematic origins of the products they buy. The study also revealed that when participants were made aware of the impact of their actions, there was a 15.6% increase in altruistic behavior. This suggests that much of perceived altruism may be driven by societal pressures and self-image rather than genuine concern for others.
- 40% of individuals opt not to learn the consequences of their decisions.
- Willful ignorance leads to a 15.6 percentage point decrease in altruistic behavior.
- People who are informed about the consequences of their actions are 7% more likely to act generously, indicating genuine altruism.
When given the choice to learn the impact of their actions on others, 40% of people choose ignorance as a means to act selfishly, according to research from the American Psychological Association.
Lead author Linh Vu, MS, a doctoral candidate at the University of Amsterdam, highlighted examples of this willful ignorance in daily life, such as when consumers ignore information about the origins of the products they purchase.
The research, published in the journal Psychological Bulletin, involved a meta-analysis of 22 studies with a total of 6,531 participants. Participants were given the option to learn the consequences of their actions, and the researchers found that 40% chose not to do so. This willful ignorance was associated with a decrease in altruistic behavior by 15.6 percentage points.
The researchers hypothesized that some people behave altruistically in order to maintain a positive self-image. Willful ignorance allows them to preserve this self-image without having to act altruistically. The study also revealed that participants who chose to learn the consequences of their actions were 7 percentage points more likely to act generously, suggesting that true altruism involves being aware of the impact of one’s actions.
Study co-author Shaul Shalvi, PhD, a professor of behavioral ethics, emphasized that many altruistic behaviors are driven by a desire to comply with societal expectations. While being altruistic can be costly, ignorance provides an easy way out.
The meta-analysis included studies conducted in the United States and Western Europe, and future research should explore willful ignorance in different contexts and investigate strategies to combat this behavior.
About this psychology research news
Author: James Sliwa
Contact: James Sliwa – APA
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News
Original Research: Open access.
“Ignorance by Choice: A Meta-Analytic Review of the Underlying Motives of Willful Ignorance and Its Consequences” by Shaul Shalvi et al. Psychological Bulletin
Ignorance by Choice: A Meta-Analytic Review of the Underlying Motives of Willful Ignorance and Its Consequences
A new meta-analysis examines the impact of willful ignorance on altruistic behavior. The study analyzes 33,603 decisions made by 6,531 participants across 56 different treatment effects. Results show that 40% of participants choose to avoid information about the consequences of their actions, leading to a 15.6-percentage point decrease in altruistic behavior compared to when information is provided. The researchers also explore the motivations behind willful ignorance and provide evidence that it is often driven by the desire to maintain a positive self-image. The study highlights the need for further research and strategies to address this behavior.