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Do people harness deliberate ignorance to avoid envy and its detrimental effects?

Lisa Bruttel (), Werner Güth (), Ralph Hertwig () and Andreas Orland ()
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Werner Güth: Max Planck Institute for Collective Goods, Bonn, Germany
Ralph Hertwig: Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany

No 17, CEPA Discussion Papers from Center for Economic Policy Analysis

Abstract: Envy is an unpleasant emotion. If individuals anticipate that comparing their payoff with the (potentially higher) payoff of others will make them envious, they may want to actively avoid information about other people’s payoffs. Given the opportunity to reduce another person’s payoff, an individual’s envy may trigger behavior that is detrimental to welfare. In this case, if individuals anticipate that they will react in a welfare-reducing way, they may also avoid information about other people’s payoffs from the outset. We investigated these two hypotheses using three experiments. We found that 13% of our potentially envious subjects avoided information when they did not have the opportunity to reduce another participant’s payoff. Psychological scales do not explain this behavior. We also found that voluntarily uninformed subjects did neither deduct less of the payoff nor less frequently than subjects who could not avoid the information.

Keywords: envy; emotion regulation; deliberate ignorance; punishment; experiment (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C91 D23 D63 D83 D91 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020-02
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cbe, nep-exp and nep-hpe
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