Types of ignorance and their characteristics

  • Aug 25, 2022
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Types of ignorance and their characteristics

You are a person who goes to the gym regularly and, since you have read a book on diets, you think that you already know everything about food. However, the reality is that you don't even know how carbohydrates differ or what the essential amino acids are. In turn, it is possible that, in the fields of athletics and sports in general, a large number of people who try to sell you training miracles to make you a champion, even though you may not even know what the energetic mechanisms are involved in the gesture athletic.

If we continued to give examples of these situations of daily ignorance, we would never end, but how exactly can we define it? In this Psychology-Online article we explain the different Types of ignorance and their characteristics.

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  1. what is ignorance
  2. rational ignorance
  3. pluralistic ignorance
  4. unavoidable ignorance

What is ignorance.

ignorance, of latin ignorance, it is the condition that qualifies the ignorant

, that is, the person who has neglected the knowledge of certain things that one could or should know. Sometimes the term ignorance is associated with "rudeness", understood as rudeness of manner or ignorance of those "good manners" that, in general, are attributed to those who have wanted or been able to take a tour educational.

Included in the scope of "compulsory" knowledge is knowledge of the law that is not permitted to be ignored. The Latin phrase "ignorantia legis non excuse" synthetically expresses the legal maximum regarding the presumption of knowledge of the law. In turn, its meaning is "The law does not forgive the ignorant", which means that it is assumed that the law is always available for the knowledge of the generality of citizens. This criterion, except for some exceptions, is considered inescapable by the jurisprudence.

Next, we show you the types of ignorance and what their characteristics are.

rational ignorance.

Ignorance about a topic is defined as "rational" when the cost of gathering enough information about a topic to making an informed decision outweighs the reasonable potential benefit expected from the decision, that is, the best possible solution. With this type of ignorance, the person tries to avoid an irrational waste of time, necessary to arrive at an answer.

Likewise, this fact can have consequences on the quality of the decisions made by a large number of people, as in the case of general elections, in which the probability that an individual vote changes the result is negligible

This term, coined by Anthony Downs, It is almost always in the economic field, especially in relation to the theory of public choice. However, it is also used in other disciplines that study rationality and choice, including epistemology in philosophy and game theory.

example of rational ignorance

An example of rational ignorance can be the case of an employer who has to choose between two candidates to whom he offers to perform a task at a cost of 10 euros per hour. The time needed to complete the task may be longer or shorter depending on the skills of the person doing the task. he does it, so the employer will want to find the worker to finish the job as quickly as possible possible. Suppose that the cost of another day of interviews with the candidates is 100 euros.

If the employer has already deduced from the interviews that both candidates will complete the task in a period of between 195 and 205 hours, he may consider that the simplest thing will be to select the best candidate through some simple application method, such as a coin toss, rather than spending the 100 euros needed to determine who is really the best for the job. With this, he would save a maximum of 100 euros in labor costs.

Types of ignorance and their characteristics - Rational ignorance

pluralistic ignorance.

In social psychology, pluralistic ignorance is a process that engages people when they are in a group. Each one thinks that the others have more information about the situation and, therefore, in the face of an ambiguous event. For this reason, people observe the behavior of others to try to interpret it correctly, possibly without taking into account that others also do the same. This fact leads to a high probability of inaction.

Generalizing is a process that occurs when several members of a group mistakenly think that they have different perceptions, beliefs or attitudes with respect to the rest of the group. However, they behave like everyone else by believing that since everyone behaves in the same way, opinions within the group are unanimous.

That is, since everyone has the same perception and behaves as if they completely agree with the others, each one will think that he is the only one to disagree. This, in turn, will reinforce the propensity to conform, as people tend to conform to what they perceive as consensus opinion rather than act on their perceptions and beliefs.

Types of ignorance and their characteristics - Pluralistic ignorance

Unavoidable ignorance.

Although the ignorance is real, for example, in cases in which the perpetrator was not aware of the incriminating norm, this does not justify the subject in the eyes of the law, since each citizen has a general duty to inform himself of the laws in force in his country. Therefore, we understand as "inevitable" to an absolutely exceptional situation of ignorance in which the agent subject is involved.

Some examples of unavoidable ignorance are:

  • Social isolation: the subject, due to a total lack of socialization, has not been able to have knowledge of the law that has subsequently been broken. For example, if the person has lived isolated from everything for years, without any contact with the outside world.
  • Low cultural level: the cultural level of the offender is so lower than the average that the awareness of committing a criminal action is excluded. This circumstance occurs above all in cases in which the offender is a foreigner and has just joined society.
  • Inconsistency in the law:When there is a complete inconsistency in the legislative text, so serious that its scope cannot be understood. For example, when a rule is so poorly written that it casts doubt on its meaning.
  • Bad jurisprudential orientation: when the jurisprudential orientation induces to misinterpret the law and, consequently, to commit a crime.

However, special interpretive skills possessed by certain characters must be taken into account. people who, due to their profession or other personal circumstances, allow them to better understand the text legislative. For example, ignorance of the law on the part of the foreigner is excusable if he has recently lived in the territory and is unable to understand the language, asks for help from professionals in the legal sector and still commits the crime for being wrong advised.

Types of ignorance and their characteristics - Unavoidable ignorance

This article is merely informative, in Psychology-Online we do not have the power to make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment. We invite you to go to a psychologist to treat your particular case.

If you want to read more articles similar to Types of ignorance and their characteristics, we recommend that you enter our category of Social psychology.


  • Acquaviva, M. (2022). When the ignorance of the legge is scusabile. Recovered from: https://www.laleggepertutti.it/526129_quando-lignoranza-della-legge-e-scusabile
  • Brocardi (2022). Ignorance of the criminal law. Recovered from: https://www.brocardi.it/codice-penale/libro-primo/titolo-i/art5.html
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