Flouting the Law: Does Perceived Injustice Provoke General Non-Compliance?

33 Pages Posted: 27 Nov 2002

Date Written: April 1, 2002


What happens when people's common sense view of justice diverges from the sense of justice they see enshrined in particular legal rules and legal outcomes? In particular, does the perception of one particular law as unjust make people less likely to comply with unrelated laws? This article reports an experiment that empirically tested the Flouting Thesis - the idea that the perceived justice of one law can influence the intention to comply with unrelated laws. Participants who were exposed to laws they perceived as unjust were more willing, as a general matter, to flout unrelated laws, compared to participants exposed to laws perceived as just. This willingness to disobey extended far beyond the unjust law in question, resulting in participants expressing plans to flout unrelated laws in their everyday lives (such as traffic violations, petty theft, and copyright restrictions). Factors contributing to the relationship between perceived injustice and flouting include the role of law in American popular culture, the expressive function of the law in producing compliance, and unconscious psychological processes that underlie the diminished willingness to comply with the law.

Suggested Citation

Nadler, Janice, Flouting the Law: Does Perceived Injustice Provoke General Non-Compliance? (April 1, 2002). Northwestern Law & Econ Research Paper No. 02-9, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=353745 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.353745

Janice Nadler (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - School of Law

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
312-503-3228 (Phone)
312-503-2035 (Fax)

American Bar Foundation ( email )

750 N. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611

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