Less people know, less they want to know

Nov. 23, 2011 at 8:11 PM
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WATERLOO, Ontario, Nov. 23 (UPI) -- The less people know about complex issues such as the economy, energy and the environment, the less they want to know, Canadian researchers found.

Study author Steven Shepherd, a graduate student with the University of Waterloo in Ontario, said researchers found the more urgent the issue, the more people want to remain unaware.

"These studies were designed to help understand the so-called 'ignorance is bliss' approach to social issues," Shepherd said in a statement.

A series of five studies were conducted in 2010 and 2011 with 511 adults in the United States and Canada.

Participants who felt most affected by the economic recession avoided information challenging the government's ability to manage the economy. However, they did not avoid positive information, the study said.

The study participants who received the complex description indicated higher levels of perceived helplessness in getting through the economic downturn, more dependence on and trust in the government to manage the economy and less desire to learn more about the issue, Shepherd said.

"People tend to respond by psychologically 'outsourcing' the issue to the government, which in turn causes them to trust and feel more dependent on the government," said study co-author Aaron C. Kay of Duke University. "Ultimately, they avoid learning about the issue because that could shatter their faith in the government."

The findings were published online in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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