Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

March 7, 2013

Should CFPB Be a Nudge?

By David Reiss

Cass Sunstein, until recently the Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, has posted an early draft of  Behavioral Economics and Regulation.  While it touches on real estate finance only indirectly, it provides a nice follow up to yesterday’s post on financial education.  Sunstein writes that it “It is clear that behavioral findings are having a large impact on regulation, law, and public policy all over the world . . ..” (2)  For the purposes of residential mortgage regulation it is worth restating some of the central findings of behavioral research:

  • Default rules often have a large effect on social outcomes. (3)
  • Procrastination can have significant adverse effects. (3)
  • When people are informed of the benefits or risks of engaging in certain actions, they are far more likely to act in accordance  with that information if they are simultaneously provided with clear, explicit information about how to do so. (4)
  • People are influenced by how information is presented or “framed.” (4)
  • Information that is vivid and salient usually has a larger impact on behavior than information that is statistical and abstract. (4)
  • People display loss aversion; they may well dislike losses more than they like corresponding gains. (5)
  • In multiple domains, individual behavior is greatly influenced by the perceived behavior of other people. (5)
  • In many domains, people show unrealistic optimism. (6)
  • People often use heuristics, or mental shortcuts, when assessing risks. (7)
  • People sometimes do not make judgments on the basis of expected value, and they may neglect or disregard the issue of  probability, especially when strong emotions are triggered. (7)

Sunstein tentatively concludes — although I would certainly state it more strongly — “it would be possible to think that at least some behavioral market failures justify more coercive forms of paternalism.” (10)

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