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You 2.0: The Ostrich Effect

Ostrich sticking its head in the sand.

Spoiler alerts are sacred.

We stick our fingers in our ears when a friend divulges details about a TV series we have yet to finish. We avoid articles that discuss important plot points of a movie we haven't gotten around to watching.

Sometimes, this 'no spoilers' mentality leaks into other parts of our lives. We avoid getting an important medical test done, fearing bad results. We turn off the news when the headlines make us upset, even though the information is pertinent to us. According to economist Joshua Tasoff, this behavior is irrational.

"A person should never avoid information, because information can never hurt a decision."

This week, as part of our You 2.0 series, we return to this discussion about information aversion, and why our brains are inclined to avoid information that's painful — even if it's information that we need.

Hidden Brain is hosted by Shankar Vedantam and produced by Jennifer Schmidt, Rhaina Cohen, Parth Shah, Thomas Lu, Laura Kwerel, and Adhiti Bandlamudi. Our supervising producer is Tara Boyle. You can also follow us on Twitter @hiddenbrain.

Read more:

"Fantasy and Dread: The Demand for Information and the Consumption Utility of the Future," Management Science

"Appealing to Fear: A Meta-Analysis of Fear Appeal Effectiveness and Theories," American Psychological Association

"Experiencing breast cancer at the workplace," Journal of Public Economics

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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