Information avoidance in behavioral economics (Golman et al., 2017) refers to situations in which people choose not to obtain knowledge that is freely available. Active information avoidance includes physical avoidance, inattention, the biased interpretation of information (see also confirmation bias) and even some forms of forgetting. In behavioral finance, for example, research has shown that investors are less likely to check their portfolio online when the stock market is down than when it is up, which has been termed the ostrich effect (Karlsson et al., 2009). More serious cases of avoidance happen when people fail to return to clinics to get medical test results, for instance (Sullivan et al., 2004).
While information avoidance is sometimes strategic, it can have immediate hedonic benefits for people if it prevents the negative (usually psychological) consequences of knowing the information. It usually carries negative utility in the long term, because it deprives people of potentially useful information for decision making and feedback for future behavior. Furthermore, information avoidance can contribute to a polarization of political opinions and media bias.
Golman, R., Hagmann, D., & Loewenstein, G. (2017). Information avoidance. Journal of Economic Literature, 55(1), 96-135.
Karlsson, N., Loewenstein, G., & Seppi, D. (2009). The ostrich effect: Selective attention to information. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 38, 95–115.
Sullivan, P. S., Lansky, A., & Drake, A. (2004). Failure to return for HIV test results among persons at high risk for HIV infection: Results from a multistate interview project. JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, 35(5), 511–518.