Information Avoidance Tendencies, Threat Management Resources, and Interest in Genetic Sequencing Feedback

Ann Behav Med. 2015 Aug;49(4):616-21. doi: 10.1007/s12160-014-9679-7.


Background: Information avoidance is a defensive strategy that undermines receipt of potentially beneficial but threatening health information and may especially occur when threat management resources are unavailable.

Purpose: We examined whether individual differences in information avoidance predicted intentions to receive genetic sequencing results for preventable and unpreventable (i.e., more threatening) disease and, secondarily, whether threat management resources of self-affirmation or optimism mitigated any effects.

Methods: Participants (N = 493) in an NIH study (ClinSeq®) piloting the use of genome sequencing reported intentions to receive (optional) sequencing results and completed individual difference measures of information avoidance, self-affirmation, and optimism.

Results: Information avoidance tendencies corresponded with lower intentions to learn results, particularly for unpreventable diseases. The association was weaker among individuals higher in self-affirmation or optimism, but only for results regarding preventable diseases.

Conclusions: Information avoidance tendencies may influence decisions to receive threatening health information; threat management resources hold promise for mitigating this association.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health
  • Avoidance Learning*
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / psychology*
  • Genetic Testing*
  • Humans
  • Information Seeking Behavior*
  • Intention*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Optimism
  • Self Concept