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Science & Environment

We Shouldn't Stick Our Heads In The Sand, But We Do It Anyway

An ostrich plunges its head into the ground.

Spoiler alerts are sacred.

We plunge our fingers into 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 in 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."

On this week's Hidden Brain, we discuss information aversion, a concept commonly called the ostrich effect.

Hidden Brain is hosted by Shankar Vedantam and produced by Rhaina Cohen, Maggie Penman, Jennifer Schmidt, Parth Shah, Renee Klahr, and Gabriela Saldivia. Our supervising producer is Tara Boyle. You can also follow us on Twitter @hiddenbrain, and listen for Hidden Brain stories each week on your local public radio station.

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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