I’m in a hurry, I don't want to know! Strategic ignorance under time pressure

Johannes Jarke-Neuert*, Johannes Lohse

*Corresponding author for this work

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Information avoidance is common when privately beneficial choices have uncertain and potentially adverse effects on others. A dominant theory holds that such “strategic ignorance” allows decision makers to circumvent inner moral conflict while acting self-servingly. In extension of this theory, we hypothesize that time pressure elevates the prevalence of strategic ignorance. We conduct a laboratory experiment with resolvable payoff uncertainty to test this hypothesis. We find that time pressure indeed significantly increases the incidence of information avoidance. As a result, self-serving choices are more common than in a baseline without time pressure. We empirically explore several potential interpretations of this main finding. First, in a control condition, in which payoffs are fully transparent, time pressure has no direct effect on self-serving behavior. This speaks against a general tendency to act more self-servingly or fairly under time pressure. Second, a follow-up study shows that information avoidance under time pressure is attributable to conflict avoidance, rather than providing decision makers with a convenient excuse for not becoming informed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2833–2845
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number11
Early online date23 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research for this article has been partially funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) under Germany’s Excellence Strategy, cluster EXC 2037 “CLICCS: Climate, Climatic Change, and Society” (Project 390683824) and contributes to the Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability (CEN) of Universität Hamburg. The authors do not declare any conflict of interest. Study materials, experimental instructions, data, and data analysis files are published on the Open Science Framework (OSF) under DOI 10.17605/ OSF.IO/5X3DW or URL https://osf.io/5x3dw/

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022. American Psychological Association


  • Conflict avoidance
  • Information avoidance
  • Prosocial behavior
  • Strategic ignorance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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