Do you want to know a secret? The role of valence and delay in early information preference

AbstractPeople tend to place value on information even when it does not affect the outcome of a decision. Two competing accounts offer explanations for such non-instrumental information seeking. One account foregrounds the role of anticipation and the other focusses on uncertainty aversion. Both accounts make similar predictions for short cue-outcome delays and when outcomes are positively valenced, but they differ in their explanation of information preference at long delays with negative outcomes. We present a series of experiments involving both primary and secondary reinforcers that pit these accounts against each other. The results indicate a consistent preference for non-instrumental information even at long cue-outcome delays and no evidence for information avoidance with negative outcomes. This pattern appears to provide more support for the uncertainty-aversion account than one based on anticipation.

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