When ignorance is not bliss: How feelings of discomfort promote the search for negative information

Yaniv Shani, Orit E. Tykocinski, Marcel Zeelenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Recent decision-making research established that the experience of regret leads to post-decision information search [Shani, Y., & Zeelenberg, M. (2007). When and why do we want to know? How experienced regret promotes post-decision information search. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 20, 207-222]. It has been argued that people search information in hope to alleviate their negative feelings by excluding the possibility that unfavorable decision was made. Paradoxically, by seeking information people expose themselves to information that may confirm their negative feelings. The willingness to seek out potentially painful information was examined in three studies. Experiment 1 demonstrated that the tendency to seek definite knowledge about the attractiveness of a forgone opportunity is mediated by the emotional discomfort associated with remaining ignorant, and influenced by the probability that the search will uncover aversive information. This finding was replicated in Experiment 2 in a lab setting. Experiment 3 demonstrated that definite knowledge is less-aversive than uncertain ignorance, even when one finds out that one had missed a superior opportunity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)643-653
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Economic Psychology
Volume29
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2008
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Decision-making
  • Feeling
  • Information seeking
  • Probability
  • Uncertainty

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