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When collective ignorance is bliss: Theory and experiment on voting for learning

Boris Ginzburg and José Guerra ()

Journal of Public Economics, 2019, vol. 169, issue C, 52-64

Abstract: When do groups and societies choose to be uninformed? We study a committee that needs to vote on a reform which will give every member a private state-dependent payoff. The committee can vote to learn the state at no cost. We show that the committee votes not to learn the state whenever independent voters are more divided than partisans. This implies that groups with conflicting preferences tend to seek less information. A laboratory experiment shows that committees are substantially more likely to vote against acquiring information when the theory predicts them to do so. We also observe deviations from theory that are largely explained by cognitive limitations. At the same time, subjects with more experience or with greater strategic competence are more likely to vote in line with the theory, providing evidence for external validity of the model.

Keywords: Voting; Collective learning; Reform adoption; Preference heterogeneity; Laboratory experiment (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D72 D83 C92 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:169:y:2019:i:c:p:52-64