In Greek mythology, Cassandra, daughter of the king of Troy, had
the power to foresee the future. But, she was also cursed and no one
believed her prophecies.
Given the chance to see into the future, most people would rather not
know what life has in store for them, even if they think those events
could make them happy, suggested a new research published by the
American Psychological Association.
‘Learning what the future holds, good or bad, does not appealing to most people, suggests a new study.’
The study's lead author, Gerd Gigerenzer of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, said, "In our study,
we've found that people would rather decline the powers that made
Cassandra famous, in an effort to forgo the suffering that knowing the
future may cause, avoid regret and also maintain the enjoyment of
suspense that pleasurable events provide."
Two nationally representative studies involving more than 2,000
adults in Germany and Spain found that 85 to 90% of people would
not want to know about upcoming negative events, and 40 to 70%
preferred to remain ignorant of upcoming positive events. Only 1%
of participants consistently wanted to know what the future held. The
findings are published in the APA journal Psychological Review
The researchers also found that people who prefer not to know the
future are more risk averse and more frequently buy life and legal
insurance than those who want to know the future. This suggests that
those who choose to be ignorant anticipate regret, Gigerenzer said. The
length of time until an event would occur also played a role: Deliberate
ignorance was more likely the nearer the event. For example, older
adults were less likely than younger adults to want to know when they or
their partner would die, and the cause of death.
Participants were asked about a large range of potential events,
both positive and negative. For example, they were asked if they wanted
to know who won a soccer game they had planned to watch later, what they
were getting for Christmas, whether there is life after death and if
their marriage would eventually end in divorce. Finding out the sex of
their unborn child was the only item in the survey where more people
wanted to know than didn't, with only 37% of participants saying
they wouldn't want to know.
Although people living in Germany and Spain vary in age, education
and other important aspects, the pattern of deliberate ignorance was
highly consistent across the two countries, according to the article,
including its prevalence and predictability.
"Wanting to know appears to be the natural condition of humankind,
and in no need of justification. People are not just invited but also
often expected to participate in early detection for cancer screening or
in regular health check-ups, to subject their unborn babies to dozens
of prenatal genetic tests, or to use self-tracking health devices," said
Gigerenzer . "Not wanting to know appears counterintuitive and may
raise eyebrows, but deliberate ignorance, as we've shown here, doesn't
just exist; it is a widespread state of mind."