Is ignorance really bliss or not? Sometimes or never?
Becoming well-informed requires some brain work, while remaining unaware, or choosing “Willful ignorance” does not.
Conjecture: The less you know, the less you want to know.
True or False?
Ignorance Is Bliss When it Comes to Challenging Social Issues
WASHINGTON—The less people know about important complex issues such as the economy, energy consumption and the environment, the more they want to avoid becoming well-informed, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.
And the more urgent the issue, the more people want to remain unaware, according to a paper published online in APA’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Steven Shepard of the University of Waterloo in Ontario and co-author Aaron C. Kay of Duke University suggest that “ignorance—as a function of the system justifying tendencies it may activate—may, ironically, breed more ignorance.” Shepard and Kay found that ignorance about a certain issue leads to dependence on others, which in turn leads to higher trust in a government, during which a subject actively avoids information about said issue.
In one study, for example, participants were given complex information about the economy and asked to detail how the economy is affecting them directly. Overall, they wanted to know less about the government’s capability to manage the economy the more they felt the economy affected them. In another study, Americans declined to hear additional negative information about an oil shortage, even after learning that the United States would most likely run out of oil supplies in 40 years.
While not shocking, Shepard and Kay’s findings are still terrifying in our information-saturated world.
Shepard and Kay say that functioning members of American and Canadian societies who are unaware of the goings-on in the world would rather actively avoid tough news than exercise effort to learn more. Ignorance is cyclical and conscious—and that’s as scary as any economic or environmental disaster.
In the book Fahrenheit 451, the antagonist Beatty claims that “If you don’t want a house built, hide the nails and wood”. What Beatty means here, is that if people don’t want society to have knowledge, then all knowledge-bearing materials must be destroyed, which in this instance, are books. Books give people knowledge and more complications, which he claims can make people less happy. Ignorance is bliss because every character in Fahrenheit 451 who discovers the truth is in immediate trouble, and completely loses their control on life.