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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The effect of uncertainty and reward probability on information seeking behaviour


People’s desire to seek or avoid information is not only influenced by the possible outcomes of an event, but the probability of those particular outcomes occurring. There are competing explanations however as to how and why people’s desire for non-instrumental information is affected by factors including expected value, probability of outcome, and a unique formulation of outcome uncertainty. Over two experiments, we find that people’s preference for non-instrumental information is positively correlated with probability when the outcome is positive (i.e., winning money) and negatively correlated when the outcome is negative (i.e., losing money). Furthermore, at the aggregate level, we find the probability of an outcome to be a better predictor of information preference than the expected value of the event or its outcome uncertainty.

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