In underwriting, the ability to obtain accurate health information from an applicant is paramount. The practice of asking people to report their health has been perfected over decades, yet under-reporting remains an issue in markets around the world. This leads us to consider: is it something about the way we ask the question?
How do we currently express our expectation to applicants so that they’ll provide honest, accurate answers to underwriting questions? Most often, an honesty declaration for them to sign at the end of the form, combined with warnings that misrepresentation, may affect their ability to make a claim.
These tools, understandably, talk to the “rational” parts of our brains; the parts that say, what harm will lying do? How would they find out I’m not telling the truth? They also assume that any misrepresentation is intentional and deceitful. Thus, according to rational traditional economic theory of human behavior, these warnings should effectively discourage under-disclosure.
However, behavioral economics, the field that integrates elements of psychology into economic theory of human behavior, opens our eyes to several other possibilities. Due to the fact that the vast majority of our daily decisions are made using our automatic, subconscious brains, the failure to give a truthful answer to a health question may result from the influence of the context at the point that we are answering the question.