Targeting ignorance to change behavior

Authored by: Deborah A. Prentice

Routledge International Handbook of Ignorance Studies

Print publication date:  May  2015
Online publication date:  May  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415718967
eBook ISBN: 9781315867762
Adobe ISBN: 9781317964674


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Ignorance is a popular explanation for dysfunctional behavior. For example, it is widely held that if people knew the dangers of sun exposure, they would lather on the sunscreen. If they knew the damage they were doing to the planet, they would turn down their thermostats and leave their SUVs at home. If they knew how much food and alcohol they were consuming, they would cut back. If they knew that people were in trouble, they would help. If they knew how to donate blood or save for retirement, they would do so. If they knew how things looked from another person’s perspective, they would interact more harmoniously. In short, ignorance—of the cumulative and aggregate effects of behavior, of how to behave differently, and of other points of view—is what keeps people from leading healthier, happier, and more sustainable lives.

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