Motivated Reasoning, Information Avoidance, and Default Bias


We investigate whether the presence of a default interacts with the willingness of decision-makers to gather, process and consider information. In an online experiment, where about 2,300 participants choose between two compiled charity donation options worth $100, we vary the availability of information and the presence of a default. Information avoidance, when possible, increases default effects considerably, manifesting a hitherto undocumented channel of the default bias. Moreover, we show that defaults trigger motivated reasoning: In the presence of a default – even if self-selected–, participants consider new information to a lower degree than without a preselected option.

Discussion Papers of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, 2022/3