May 12, 2019

Russell Golman: On Information Avoidance

Russell Golman is an Assistant Professor of Behavioral Economics and Decision Sciences in the Social & Decision Sciences Department at CMU.  His pioneering, interdisciplinary work has been published in a wide range of academic journals, including Science AdvancesDecision, the RAND Journal of Economics, the Journal of Economic Theorythe Journal of Economic Perspectives, and the Journal of Economic Literature

In 2017 Professor Golman organized the Belief-Based Utility Conference at Carnegie Mellon with generous funding from the Russell Sloan Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Professor Golman was trained as a game theorist with a Mathematics Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.  But whereas game theorists usually assume that people making strategic decisions are hyper-rational, Russell wanted to acknowledge that real people are influenced by each other and sometimes make mistakes. They often care deeply about their beliefs, not just about material outcomes. And they rarely settle into an equilibrium in which everybody is static and content. 

Russell’s research interests expanded into behavioral economics and behavioral decision research as well as complex adaptive systems and social dynamics.  He took a postdoc in Social and Decision Sciences at CMU, where Herb Simon first conceived of the concept of bounded rationality 50 years earlier.  Professor Golman joined the faculty here in 2012.

We talked to Russell about information avoidance and curiosity and to what lengths people will strive for both. In our grooving session, Kurt and Tim discuss information avoidance from a corporate perspective and wonder, “what impact does a manager have when he or she avoids a difficult conversation?” We also talked about ways to reduce information avoidance in the working world and how incentives may help managers through tough situations.

We hope you enjoy this episode in our Carnegie Mellon series with Russell Golman.


Russell Golman:

CMU Social and Decision Sciences Department:

Carnegie Mellon University:


Golman, Russell, David Hagmann, and George Loewenstein.  “Information Avoidance.” Journal of Economic Literature, 2017, 55: 96-135.
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Golman, Russell and George Loewenstein.  “Information Gaps: A Theory of Preferences Regarding the Presence and Absence of Information”  Decision, 2016, forthcoming.


Golman, Russell, George Loewenstein, Karl Ove Moene and Luca Zarri. “The Preference for Belief Consonance.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 2016, 30: 165-187.


GI Joe Fallacy:

Herb Simon:


Bluegrass music:

Great Blue Heron Music Festival:

Donna the Buffalo:

Jam bands:

The Pines:

The Cactus Blossoms:


Kurt Nelson: @motivationguru and

Tim Houlihan: @THoulihan and

Check out the Behavioral Grooves website:

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