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Homo Ignorans: Deliberately Choosing Not to Know

Ralph Hertwig and Christoph Engel

Although humans are often portrayed as informavores, the circumstances under which they refrain from acquiring or consulting information are many and varied. Take, for instance, individuals at risk of Huntington’s disease. Nearly everyone with the defective gene who lives long enough will go on to develop this devastating condition. Yet only 3% to 25% of those at high risk opt to take the near-perfect test available to identify carriers of the gene (e.g., Creighton et al., 2003; Yaniv, Benador, & Sagi, 2004). Similarly, up to 55% of people who decide to be tested for HIV subsequently do not return to learn their result (Hightow et al., 2003).