Would you like to know what does the future hold for you? If yes, you may have only a few company. A new study shows that given the chance to see into the future, most people would rather not know what life has in store for them -- whether it brings good things or bad.
“In Greek mythology, Cassandra, daughter of the King of Troy, had the power to foresee the future. But, she was also cursed and no one believed her prophecies,” said the study’s lead author Gerd Gigerenzer from Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany.
“In our study, we’ve found that people would rather decline the powers that made Cassandra famous, in an effort to forgo the suffering that knowing the future may cause, avoid regret and also maintain the enjoyment of suspense that pleasurable events provide,” Gigerenzer said.
The findings, published in the journal Psychological Review, are based on two studies involving more than 2,000 adults in Germany and Spain.
The study found that 85 -90% of people would not want to know about upcoming negative events, and 40-70% preferred to remain ignorant of upcoming positive events.
Only 1% of participants consistently wanted to know what the future held.
The researchers also found that people who prefer not to know the future are more risk averse and more frequently buy life and legal insurance than those who want to know the future.
This suggests that those who choose to be ignorant anticipate regret, Gigerenzer said.
The length of time until an event would occur also played a role. Deliberate ignorance was more likely the nearer the event.
For example, older adults were less likely than younger adults to want to know when they or their partner would die, and the cause of death.
“Not wanting to know appears counter-intuitive and may raise eyebrows, but deliberate ignorance, as we’ve shown here, doesn’t just exist; it is a widespread state of mind,” Gigerenzer said.