Police compliance with the social contract as an antecedent of police legitimacy, of satisfaction with the police, and of willingness to obey: findings from a two-stage vignette experiment

Tal Jonathan-Zamir*, Gali Perry, Naomi Kaplan-Damary, David Weisburd

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objectives: Test the effects of police compliance with the restrictions on their authority embedded in Social Contract Theory (SCT) on police legitimacy, satisfaction with the police, and willingness to obey police officers. Methods: A two-stage vignette experiment. In the first, 1356 participants were randomly assigned to one of four study conditions: control, procedural justice (PJ), police performance (PP), and compliance with the social contract (SC). In the follow-up stage, 660 participants were randomly assigned to either a control or proportionality/least restrictive alternative (PL) condition. Results: Compared to the control condition, the SC manipulation improved evaluations of all three dependent variables. For legitimacy, its effect was no different than that of PJ and PP. For satisfaction, it was similar to that of PP and stronger than the effect of PJ. For willingness to obey, it was no different than the effect of PJ, but stronger than that of PP. The second stage of the experiment revealed that compared to the control condition, the two unique components of the SC model (PL) significantly improved the scores of all three DVs. Conclusions: Police adherence to the SC, and particularly to its two unique components, is an important determinant of police legitimacy and other outcomes, and should thus be acknowledged by researchers and practitioners. Future research is encouraged to disentangle the relative effects of the “building blocks” making up PJ, PP, and compliance with the SC.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalJournal of Experimental Criminology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.

Keywords

  • Antecedents of police legitimacy
  • Procedural justice
  • Satisfaction with police
  • Social Contract Theory
  • Vignette experiment
  • Willingness to obey police

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Police compliance with the social contract as an antecedent of police legitimacy, of satisfaction with the police, and of willingness to obey: findings from a two-stage vignette experiment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this