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Identity and information acquisition

Daniele Pennesi

No 610, Carlo Alberto Notebooks from Collegio Carlo Alberto

Abstract: This paper proposes a theory of identity protection and studies its implications for information acquisition. Identity prescribes behaviors, and violating the prescriptions in favor of actions with higher material value is cognitively costly. Information has an ambiguous value because it can reduce or exacerbate the trade-off between material benefits and identity protection. The theory rationalizes information avoidance observed in various domains, including willful ignorance in social dilemmas. The cost of information, however, is not necessarily monotone in the quality of information, so that inferior information can threaten the identity more–hence it is more likely to be avoided–than better information. Although beliefs do not have hedonic value, the theory is consistent with a demand for beliefs that leads to acquire or reject non-instrumental information. A key prediction of the theory, a potential desire to have fewer options, provides an identity-based explanation for excess entry in competitive environments, under-use of flexible work arrangements, and ethnic-specific differences in human capital accumulation. The preference for commitment is also consistent with a form of destructive behavior, in which the individual commits to payoff-inferior actions.

Keywords: Identity; Self-image; Information Aversion; willful ignorance; gender identity (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D01 D83 D91 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: pages 50
Date: 2020, Revised 2021
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-ore
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