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Optimal Revelation of Life-Changing Information

Optimal Revelation of Life-Changing Information

Nikolaus Schweizer and Nora Szech

Date: 2016


Information about the future may be instrumentally useful, yet scary. For example, many patients
shy away from precise genetic tests about their dispositions for severe diseases. They are afraid that a bad test result could render them desperate due to anticipatory feelings. We show that partially revealing tests are typically optimal when anticipatory utility interacts with an instrumental need for information. The same result emerges when patients rely on probability weighting. Optimal tests provide only two signals, which renders them easily implementable. While the good signal is typically precise, the bad one remains coarse. This way, patients have a substantial chance to learn that they are free of genetic risk in question. Yet, even if the test outcome is bad, they do not end in a situation of no hope.