If given the option to know what your future holds, would you do it?
According to a new study, most people wouldn’t.
The American Psychological Association drew data from two nationally representative studies involving 2,000 adults in Germany and Spain, and found that 85 to 90 percent of people would not want to know about negative events in the future, and 40 to 70 percent felt the same about future positive events.
In fact, only 1 percent of survey recipients consistently wanted to know about the future, according to the study, which was published Wednesday in the journal Psychological Review.
Although the data pool came from only two countries, researchers said their findings are prevalent because patterns were consistent across Germany and Spain.
So, what do the findings suggest to us about human nature, in general?
Turns out, people who would prefer to remain ignorant about future events tend to be more risk averse, researchers inferred, and they more frequently buy legal and life insurance than those who do want to know the future. Put differently, the kind of people who don’t want to know the future tend to anticipate regret.
Researchers also observed that the closer the hypothetical event, the more likely people were to want to remain ignorant. So, younger people were more likely to want to know when they or a partner would die.
"Wanting to know appears to be the natural condition of humankind, and in no need of justification. People are not just invited but also often expected to participate in early detection for cancer screening or in regular health check-ups, to subject their unborn babies to dozens of prenatal genetic tests, or to use self-tracking health devices," lead study author Dr. Gerd Gigerenzer, of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, said in a news release. "Not wanting to know appears counterintuitive and may raise eyebrows, but deliberate ignorance, as we've shown here, doesn't just exist; it is a widespread state of mind."