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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 135926 Find in a Library
Title: Why People Obey the Law
Author(s): T R Tyler
Date Published: 1990
Page Count: 279
Sponsoring Agency: National Science Foundation
Arlington, VA 22230
Yale University Press
New Haven, CT 06520
Grant Number: SES-8310199
Publication Number: ISBN 0-300-05235-9
Sale Source: Yale University Press
92a Yale Station
New Haven, CT 06520
United States of America
Type: Issue Overview
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This book, written by a psychologist, demonstrates that people comply with the law not so much because they fear punishment as because they believe legal authorities are both legitimate and generally fair.
Abstract: The first goal of the book is to contrast instrumental and normative perspectives on why people obey the law. The instrumental perspective underlies what is known as deterrence literature; people shape their behavior to respond to changes in tangible, immediate incentives and penalties associated with following the law. The normative perspective is concerned with the influence of what people regard as just and moral as opposed to what is in their self-interest. If people view compliance with the law as appropriate because of their attitudes about how they should behave, they will voluntarily assume the obligation to follow legal rules. The second goal of the book is to explore how people react to their personal experiences with legal authorities. Of particular importance is the impact of these experiences on views of the legitimacy of legal authorities, since legitimacy is a key precondition to the effectiveness of authorities. Changes in legitimacy affect the extent to which people comply with the law in their everyday lives. The final goal of the book is to assess the meaning of procedural justice by contrasting normative and instrumental approaches. The instrumental view of procedural justice, contained in the control theory of Thibaut and Walker, suggests that people do not focus directly on the favorability of outcomes they receive from third parties. Instead, they focus on the degree to which they are able to influence third-party decisions. The instrumental perspective on procedural justice suggests that assessments of procedural fairness are based on the favorability of outcomes received. Where people feel they have control over decisions, they believe that the procedure is fair. Appendixes provide additional information on the author's research effort. References, tables, and figures
Main Term(s): Attitudes toward authority
Index Term(s): Deterrence; Public Attitudes/Opinion; Sociology of law
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