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Information Avoidance: An Interchangeable Mechanism of Self-Protection


Across 4 studies, we examined whether information avoidance—the deliberate decision to remain ignorant of available information—serves a self-protective function that is interchangeable with other mechanisms of self-protection. We tested this idea by examining the relationship between information avoidance and defensive derogation of feedback. In Studies 1a and 1b, we examine whether people with a prior disposition to avoid would be more likely to derogate health information they received. We then replicated these findings in a large, confirmatory sample (Study 2). Study 3 experimentally ruled out two potential alternative explanations for the relationship established in Studies 1 and 2 by manipulating whether participants have an opportunity to avoid feedback (eliminating self-selection bias), and by presenting everyone with identical feedback (eliminating variance in the feedback received). Finally, Study 4 experimentally tested whether situations that should influence defensiveness—induction of self-(un)certainty—would increase (certainty) or decrease (uncertainty) both proactive avoidance and reactive defensiveness (Study 4). Taken together, results suggest that information avoidance is likely part of a broader self-protective system, and that people will substitute other mechanisms of self-protection for avoidance.

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