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What We Don’t Want to Know

Vice – “Do you want to know what you’ll get for Christmas? A movie spoiler? When you’ll die? The study of deliberate ignorance reveals the topics people want to remain in the dark about….After the reunification of Germany in 1990, the Stasi’s files were opened to the public, and anyone could apply to see if their nearest and dearest had been passing along information. Many decided not to—they just didn’t want to know. Those who left their files untouched practiced “deliberate ignorance,” according to Ralph Hertwig, a psychologist at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development who studied the decisions people made about their Stasi files, and is the co-editor of the 2021 book Deliberate Ignorance: Choosing Not to Know.  Knowledge seeking is often regarded as a good thing—we should want to know things, and when given the chance, we seek out information. But many researchers, like Hertwig, are dedicated to the study of what we consistently don’t want to know…”

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