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Do People Like Mandatory Rules? The Impact of Framing and Phrasing

  • Eyal Zamir and Ori Katz


Market regulation has traditionally focused on disclosure duties, yet mounting evidence questions their effectiveness. The efficacy of nudges is similarly doubted, especially when suppliers counter their effects. Consequently, there is growing interest in mandatory regulation of the content of contracts. Previous studies have examined public opinion about nudges but not about mandatory rules.

We explore how the formulation of mandatory rules might affect their judged desirability, focusing on the choices: (1) between negative and positive formulation; and (2) between merely establishing substantive mandatory rules and supervising the wording of the contract as well. We also examine laypersons’ general attitude toward mandatory rules.

We report the results of four studies, conducted with a representative sample of 968 US adults and 795 MTurk master workers. Contrary to our conjecture, we found that subjects generally judged wording rules as more desirable than merely substantive ones, and positive rules as more desirable than negative ones. There also appears to be strong support for pro-customer mandatory rules, even among conservative people. These results arguably legitimize more, and more effective, mandatory rules. They also suggest that the relative paucity of mandatory rules in US law is not due to public opposition to them but to other reasons.



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The authors contributed equally and are listed in random order.

For helpful comments on previous drafts we are grateful to Yehonatan Givati, David Hoffman, Russell Korobkin, Eyal Peer, Yuval Procaccia, Roi Yair, the participants in the conference on Behavioral Legal Studies: Cognition, Motivation and Moral Judgements (Jerusalem, 2019), the Annual Conference of the European Association of Law and Economics (Tel Aviv, 2019), and three anonymous referees. This research was supported by the I-CORE Program of the Planning and Budgeting Committee and the Israel Science Foundation (Grant No. 1821/12) and the Aharon Barak Center for Interdisciplinary Legal Research.



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Do People Like Mandatory Rules? The Impact of Framing and Phrasing

  • Eyal Zamir and Ori Katz


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