Risk Information Processing and Rational Ignoring in the Health Context

Journal of Socio-Economics 41:169-179 (2012)
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Abstract

Findings about the desire for health-risk information are heterogeneous and sometimes contradictory. In particular, they seem to be at variance with established psychological theories of information-seeking behavior.The present paper posits the decision about treating illness with medicine as the causal determinant for the expected net value of information, and attempts to explain idiosyncrasies in information-seeking behavior by using the notion of decision sensitivity to incoming information.Furthermore, active information avoidance is explained by modeling the expected emotional distress potentially brought about by “bad news” as a disutility factor in pay-off maximization.In this context two notions of uncertainty are distinguished: an epistemic uncertainty related to the prognostic probability assigned to the risk, and an emotional uncertainty related to the expected damage. Health-risk information can both reduce epistemic and increase emotional uncertainty, giving rise to idiosyncratic processing strategies.

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