Why people choose deliberate ignorance in times of societal transformation

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



The opening of East Germany's Stasi archives in 1991 has often been lauded as a model of transparency in a transformative period. Yet many citizens have rejected the opportunity to read their files. To examine the reasons people invoke for this deliberate ignorance, we combined survey methods from psychology with historiographical methodologies. Our findings reveal a diverse range of reasons for deliberate ignorance, including regulation of negative emotions, avoidance of personal conflict, scepticism about the information compiled, and rejection of the victorious political system's authority over the files. Participants thus appear to prioritise cooperation and harmony over justice concerns—in stark contrast to the institutional norm of transparency and justice. Shining a light on the role of deliberate ignorance at the individual level—and specifically the convergence or divergence of individual and collective memory culture—may help explain the pace of societal change.


Original languageEnglish
Article number105247
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

External IDs

Scopus 85137574442
Mendeley a1868666-a533-34e7-886a-d0942597fb9f
WOS 000860805900004


Research priority areas of TU Dresden

DFG Classification of Subject Areas according to Review Boards

Subject groups, research areas, subject areas according to Destatis


  • Deliberate ignorance, Emotion regulation, Information avoidance, Memory politics, Political transformation

Library keywords