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Research for the Insurance Industry to Watch

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A recent article in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology may be important for life insurers to pay attention to as we move to a more electronic world. In the article titled “What’s in a name? The toll e-signatures take on individual honesty,” Eileen Y. Chou published her research suggesting, “While many common e-signatures may objectively perform the same function as signing by hand, they do not exert the same weight in decision making. Seven studies consistently demonstrate these e-signatures’ ineffectiveness for curbing individual dishonesty-one of the essential purposes of a signature.”

I first heard of this research on my drive into work. NPR correspondent Shankar Vedantam (@hiddenbrain) was reporting on it and he said the research started with Ms. Chou, who studies leadership and public policy at University of Virginia, realizing that she might respond differently depending on whether she was handwriting her signature or providing an e-signature when asked by a student for a recommendation. Ms. Chou talked about the process by which many of us crafted our signature, practicing for hours until it looked just like we wanted. She said those signatures are “very intimate to you. It represents who you are. It represents a piece of your identity.”

Then contrast that with a PIN or a checkbox. That does not feel a part of one’s identity, and therefore, this research concludes many of us may be more willing to lie when we sign using one of these or the many other means of electronically signing documents.

I am sure that this is an issue we will be hearing more about in the future because so many companies and products are moving toward electronic application processes.