According to the classic G.I. Joe PSAs, knowing is half the battle. But sometimes cognizance backfires. (Do you feel better knowing your high-school angel is now a centerfold?) We often ask ill-fated questions hoping the news will be better than expected. ("Is my haircut terrible?") But new research shows we'll even seek out reports we know will hurt us. Why?
Curiosity is a "hot" state like hunger and lust, according to researchers Justin Kruger of NYU and Matt Evans of DePaul. "People will consume cake not because they've done a rational analysis but because they simply can't resist," Kruger says. Facts, like calories, are generally good to have but can also get us into trouble.
In one study, subjects had the chance to view a transcript of others ridiculing them. Although 39 percent said reading the remarks would do more harm than good, only 13 percent opted out. In another test, the number of subjects who said they'd want to know eight hypothetical facts (that they have a low IQ, that their ex cheated on them) also outnumbered those who thought it would be helpful.