Canberra Skeptics Lecture: When Can Ignorance Be Good For You?

Speaker: Dr. Michael Smithson
Date: Monday, 15 June 2015
Time: 6:00-7:30pm
Location: Ainslie Football Club, 52 Wakefield Ave, Ainslie ACT 2602

Free Admission
Ignorance is almost always is viewed negatively, and this is understandable. We generally prefer knowing to not knowing. However, a completely negative view of unknowns can blind us to ways in which they can be beneficial. There are not only things we temporarily do not want to know, but also things we never want to know. There are situations in which the pursuit of more information or greater certainty is futile, where an ignoramus can outperform a know-it-all, where more information actually makes us worse decision-makers, and where “fallacious” heuristics such as Gambler’s Fallacy can be adaptive. Finally, ignorance even turns out to underpin some important kinds of social capital. The focus of this talk, therefore, is on the question of when “’tis folly to be wise”.

Michael Smithson is the author of Confidence Intervals (2003), Statistics with Confidence (2000), Ignorance and Uncertainty (1989), and Fuzzy Set Analysis for the Behavioral and Social Sciences (1987), co-author of Fuzzy Set Theory: Applications in the Social Sciences (2006) and Generalized Linear Models for Categorical and Limited Dependent Variables (2013), and co-editor of Uncertainty and Risk: Multidisciplinary Perspectives (2008) and Resolving Social Dilemmas: Dynamic, Structural, and Intergroup Aspects (1999). His other publications include more than 140 refereed journal articles and book chapters.

Dinner will follow the lecture in the Ainslie Football Club restaurant. To RSVP for the dinner please email

Canberra Skeptics Inc. is a non-profit association incorporated in the Australian Capital Territory for the purpose of promoting critical thinking. For further information about Canberra Skeptics, please visit our website: