Blissfully Ignorant

Ignorance is bliss! Trust me.

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

IF your government had a file on YOU, would you read it?

During the cold war, East Germany kept files on millions of citizens. After the war, Germans could apply to look at their file. 

German scientists Ralph Hertwig and Dagmar Ellerbrock surveyed twenty-three-hundred Germans who may have had a file. Forty-two percent of them suspected that they did. Of those, ONLY twenty-eight percent had applied to view their file. 

Why so few? 

The most common reason given was apathy. People didn’t think their files were still relevant. But, another reason was concerns about the contents of their files. Many were afraid they might find out that someone close to them was an informant. They didn’t want to risk losing that trust.

Avoiding uncomfortable information isn’t an unusual practice. This case study illuminates why people may choose ignorance.

What’s that? La, la, la, I can’t heaaarrr youuu!


Hertwig, R., & Ellerbrock, D. (2022). Why people choose deliberate ignorance in times of societal transformation. Cognition, 229, 105247.