Rational ignorance

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Definition

Rational ignorance refers to a situation where a person chooses not to acquire some knowledge or information that would be useful to the person, on the grounds that the benefit the information would provide is not sufficient to compensate for the expected cost of acquiring the information.

The term rational ignorance is not typically used for situations where the knowledge has zero utility to the person, or zero probability of being useful to the person. Rather, it is used for situations where the utility is small, or the probability of generating a positive utility is small.

The term is used more often in political science to describe voters in a democracy and is a key ingredient in many accounts of the failure of democracy, particularly public choice.

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