The value of deliberate ignorance when there is too much to know

By | November 15, 2022

Joshua Benton writes:

Eyeballs. That’s what everyone on the internet seems to want — eyeballs.

To be clear, it’s not actual eyeballs, in the aqueous humor sense, that they’re looking for. It’s getting your eyeballs pointed at whatever content they produce — their game, their app, their news story, whatever — and however many ad units they can squeeze into your field of view. Your attention is literally up for auction hundreds or thousands of times a day — your asset, constantly sold by one group of third parties to another group of third parties.

The result is information overabundance. There is literally, as Ann Blair once put it, too much to know. And what share of that overabundance hits your corneas is largely determined by others — what your friends share, what platforms’ algorithms slot into view.

Given all that madness, the need for critical thinking is obvious. But so is the need for critical ignorance — the skill, tuned over time, of knowing what not to spend your attention currency on. It’s great to be able to find the needle in the haystack — but it’s also important to limit the time spent in hay triage along the way.

That’s the argument advanced in this new paper just published in Current Directions in Psychological Science. It’s titled “Critical Ignoring as a Core Competence for Digital Citizens,” and it’s by Anastasia Kozyreva, Sam Wineburg (Stanford), Stephan Lewandowsky (University of Bristol), and Ralph Hertwig. [Continue reading…]

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