Making Sense of Soft Information: Interpretation Bias and Ex-Post Lending Outcomes
73 Pages Posted: 24 Mar 2017 Last revised: 18 Apr 2018
Date Written: March 1, 2017
We explore how cognitive constraints can impede the effective processing and interpretation of less salient, non-quantitative (soft) information in private lending. Taking advantage of the internal reporting system of a large federal credit union, we delineate four important constraints likely to affect the lending process: (1) limited attention (or distraction), (2) task-specific human capital, (3) peer perception and (4) learning over the credit cycle. Specifically, we find that utilizing soft information in lending decisions leads to worse credit outcomes when loan officers are busy or before weekends and national holidays; when loan officers had earlier non-banking and, in particular, sales-related experience; when both officers and borrowers are men and when loan officers are members of informal organizational networks; and during periods of credit expansion. Overall, we provide novel evidence of non-agency-related costs in the use of soft information in credit decisions.
Keywords: Soft information, credit outcomes, cognitive constraints, interpretation and processing bias
JEL Classification: D03, D12, D19, G21
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation