The main purpose of this study is to determine whether smokers tend to avoid information about the negative consequences of smoking. To this end, an experiment was designed to capture smokers’ potential lack of receptivity to dissonant information. The manner in which this study attempts to identify the presence of information avoidance is by comparing non-smokers’ and smokers’ behavior when presented with content which takes an anti-smoking stance. In the experiment, all respondents are rewarded commensurate to their performance on a quiz comprising of logic and comprehension questions. The comprehension questions are based on content which highlights the negative consequences of smoking and binge-watching. For each topic, a video and a text are presented. Before accessing the content, respondents are shown the title of the video or text and are asked to state their preference between: 1) read or view the content and access questions, which, if answered correctly yield lottery tickets used to determine three winners of a non-monetary prize; or 2) avoid the content at a penalty cost of 6 lottery tickets. The preference of paying to avoid the content is recorded as a preference to actively avoid information. A Fisher Exact Test is used to test whether active information avoidance and smoking have an independent relationship; thus, testing whether smokers are more prone to actively avoid information than non-smokers. Additionally, a Mann-Whitney U Test is conducted to test whether smokers perform similarly to smokers; thus, testing for signs of passive information avoidance among smokers. The results of the experiment demonstrate that smokers are not more likely than non-smokers to engage in active information avoidance. However, smokers score lower on average than non-smokers when answering questions on text content about the negative consequences of smoking; symptomatic of passive information avoidance. Additional findings show that habit smokers engage in active information avoidance and smokers who have never attempted to quit engage in passive information avoidance. Interestingly, when changing the treatment groups, from smokers and non-smokers, to binge watchers and non-binge watchers, no behavioral differences are observed in terms of receptivity to dissonant information; reinforcing the idea that not all dissonant information is undesirable. To conclude, the results of this study support the need to push for ‘de-normalization’ of tobacco and increase the reliance on nudging strategies through behavioral change rather than through information provision.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Active information avoidance, passive information avoidance, receptivity to dissonant information, smokers
Thesis Advisor X. Yu
Persistent URL
Series Economics
G.M.P. de Vuyst. (2018, November 29). Smokers’ Blindness: An Analysis on the way Smokers Engage with Dissonant Information.. Economics. Retrieved from