Do people choose to be ignorant, or does it just happen naturally? New research answers the question, and the results might surprise you
Ignorance is bliss, according to the age old saying. But, if that truly is the case, how do we come to be ignorant? Is it something you have to be born with, or can you force yourself into gleeful ignorance through other means?
Well, research out of University College London claims to have cracked the code. The study found that people choose to look for important information or not based on three key traits. As such, we can categorise people into three main types based on each respective trait.
1. Emotional Impact
The first “information-seeking type” places how the information will make them feel as the number one priority. They will be hesitant to seek information they know will upset them.
2. Expected Usefulness
The second type chooses to seek information based on its perceived usefulness. If they deem the information of little use to them, they’ll be less likely to actively sek it out.
3. Thought Relevance
The final information-seeking type makes people more likely to seek out information if it’s directly related to something they already think about often.
Putting It All Together
The researchers conducted five separate experiments in order to find out this information. In these experiments, the participants were asked how much they would like to know about certain topics. Some were related to health, with researchers asking whether or not they’d like to know if they carried certain “risky” genes and other similar questions. Other experiments centred around areas such as finance or how they’re viewed by other people.
Results showed that people tend to continuously prioritise one of these traits over the other two. This effect was consistent across time also, with repeat experiments separated by a number of months revealing the same results.
This study has extremely important implications for how we disclose important information to people. To effectively communicate information, you may have to consider framing it in multiple ways in order to make it appealing to each information-seeking type. This will help inform policy, make widespread communication easier, and hopefully allow people to move further away from ignorance and become generally more informed about the world around them.
The original research article can be found here if you want to read more.
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