Nowadays, utility companies are sending out Home Energy Reports that deliver the information of households’ detailed consumption of gas, water and electricity, sometimes together with the comparison of household’s consumption with the neighbors. The companies claim that Home Energy Reports provide information on energy use to help people make smart energy saving decisions. However, according to a review paper by Golman, Hagmann and Loewenstein (2015), some people might want to avoid this information by not reading it or do not pay any attention to it.
Active information avoidance has to satisfy three conditions. First, the individual has to be aware that the information exists; second, the information has to be costless to obtain; third, the information is personally and economically consequential. It may sound counter-intuitive that people would strategically avoid costless useful information. However, it is already observed that people indeed avoid information actively in various situations.
For instance, investors avoid looking at their financial portfolios when the stock market is down, individuals at risk for health conditions often forgo medical tests even when the information is costless, managers often avoid hearing arguments that conflict with their preliminary decisions, and families who suffer an ambiguous loss of loved ones (e.g., missing in wars, outdoor sports-related disappearance) may avoid seeking evidence of the death of missing ones.
We have reasons to believe that information avoidance should not be ignored in assessing the effectiveness of Home Energy Reports.