Is there an informative effect of Law? An experimental test

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© 2014 The Author. Debates on how the law affects citizens' behaviour have traditionally focused on two mechanisms: deterrence and perceptions of legitimacy. In recent years, some scholars have suggested that the law may also affect compliance through expressive mechanisms that reveal informa- tion about the world (for example, by eliciting the risks associated with a particular behaviour). Dharmapala and McAdams have called this the informative effect of law. However, to date very little empirical evidence of the existence of such an effect has emerged. In this article, we present the results of an experiment that tests for three different hypotheses as to how this effect may be produced. Our findings show that legislators' sincerity or their access to expert knowledge is not sufficient to produce information effects. Instead, we suggest an 'asymmetry' hypothesis: the fact that a law is passed or rejected has an asymmetrical information effect on subjects' risk perceptions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)576-603
JournalJournal of Law and Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014


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