When collective ignorance is bliss: Theory and experiment on voting for learning Articles uri icon

publication date

  • January 2019

start page

  • 52

end page

  • 64

volume

  • 169

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0047-2727

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1879-2316

abstract

  • When do groups and societies choose to be uninformed? We study a committee that needs to vote on a reform which will give every member a private state-dependent payoff. The committee can vote to learn the state at no cost. We show that the committee votes not to learn the state whenever independent voters are more divided than partisans. This implies that groups with conflicting preferences tend to seek less information. A laboratory experiment shows that committees are substantially more likely to vote against acquiring information when the theory predicts them to do so. We also observe deviations from theory that are largely explained by cognitive limitations. At the same time, subjects with more experience or with greater strategic competence are more likely to vote in line with the theory, providing evidence for external validity of the model. (C) 2018 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

keywords

  • voting; collective learning; reform adoption; preference heterogeneity; laboratory experiment; ethnic diversity; information acquisition; public information; aggregation; committee; rules; selection; private; reform; curse