Social norms, self-interest and ambiguity of legal norms: An experimental analysis of the rule vs. standard dilemma

Yuval Feldman*, Alon Harel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations

Abstract

The influence of social norms on the willingness to obey legal norms depends on contingencies that have not been investigated. Theoretical, behavioral, and experimental considerations investigated in this paper establish the differential behavioral effects of legal rules and standards. The findings of experiments conducted by us indicate that in the absence of information concerning social norms, rules and standards have similar effects on compliance. In contrast, rules and standards have differential effects on compliance when they interact with social norms. Furthermore, it was found that social norms of noncompliance had a much greater effect than social norms of compliance. A second study demonstrated a similar relationship between self-interest and legal ambiguity, corroborating the theoretical mechanisms we have argued for, based on the findings of the first study. The implications of these findings to legal policy-making are discussed.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number6
JournalReview of Law and Economics
Volume4
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2008

Keywords

  • Behavioral economics
  • Motivated reasoning
  • Optimal regulation
  • Rules vs. standards
  • Self interest
  • Social norms

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