The psychological foundations of rational ignorance: biased heuristics and decision costs

  • Brad R. TaylorEmail author
Original Paper


Rational ignorance and related models of voter choice have been accused of psychological implausibility or even incoherence. Although such models run counter to folk psychological understandings of choice, this paper argues that they are consistent with widely-accepted dual process theories of cognition. Specifically, I suggest that political ignorance can be explained via a “default-interventionist” account in which a biased intuitive subsystem produces automatic responses which are overridden by rational reflection when the prospective costs of error are significant. This is consistent with rational ignorance and related theories of political ignorance and bias. Providing stronger psychological foundations for rational ignorance also suggests new ways in which the theory might be developed to increase its predictive, analytic, and evaluative power.


Rational ignorance Rational irrationality Behavioural political economy Dual process theory Heuristics and biases 

JEL classification

D72 D83 D9 



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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of CommerceUniversity of Southern QueenslandSpringfieldAustralia

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