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Compliance externalities and the role model effect on law abidance : field and survey-experimental evidence

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Abstract
Recent theories of compliance predict that, apart from utilitarian considerations, individual decisions to respect or break the law account for virtuous motives and non-utilitarian willingness to promote the social good. We test whether empirical evidence supports these theories by collecting data on cyclists’ decisions to ignore a red traffic light in a natural setting. We consider different situations where non-compliance is costly, but without risk, and where material deterrence incentives from legal sanctions remain constant. The only difference between the situations lies in who is observing the cyclists’ decision at the traffic light at the intersection of a footpath with the cycle track. We find that about 68% of cyclists ignore the red traffic light when there is the opportunity to do so. This frequency does not change substantially when adult bystanders are observing at the pedestrian traffic light. Interestingly, the violation frequency drops to about 10% when children are present. Robustness checks rule out the alternative explanations that this change is driven by concerns for children's unpredictable actions, or by the simultaneous presence of other adult bystanders. In a vignette study, we additionally dissect the cyclists’ motives for being compliant. Results suggest a “role-model effect” on compliance. When asked, the majority of participants report that the willingness to educate and be a good example is the most important reason for their decision to abide by the law, hence supporting the empirical observation that promoting the social good can be an important non-utilitarian motive of compliance decisions.
Keywords
Behavioral Law and Economics, Social Norms, Social Welfare, Virtuous Motives

Citation

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Chicago
Höppner, Sven, and Marco Fabbri. 2018. “Compliance Externalities and the Role Model Effect on Law Abidance : Field and Survey-experimental Evidence .” Journal of Empirical Legal Studies .
APA
Höppner, S., & Fabbri, M. (2018). Compliance externalities and the role model effect on law abidance : field and survey-experimental evidence . JOURNAL OF EMPIRICAL LEGAL STUDIES .
Vancouver
1.
Höppner S, Fabbri M. Compliance externalities and the role model effect on law abidance : field and survey-experimental evidence . JOURNAL OF EMPIRICAL LEGAL STUDIES . 2018;
MLA
Höppner, Sven, and Marco Fabbri. “Compliance Externalities and the Role Model Effect on Law Abidance : Field and Survey-experimental Evidence .” JOURNAL OF EMPIRICAL LEGAL STUDIES (2018): n. pag. Print.
@article{8562667,
  abstract     = {Recent theories of compliance predict that, apart from utilitarian considerations, individual decisions to respect or break the law account for virtuous motives and non-utilitarian willingness to promote the social good. We test whether
empirical evidence supports these theories by collecting data on cyclists{\textquoteright} decisions to ignore a red traffic light in a natural setting. We consider different situations where non-compliance is costly, but without risk, and where material deterrence incentives from legal sanctions remain constant. The only difference between the situations lies in who is observing the cyclists{\textquoteright} decision at the traffic light at the intersection of a footpath with the cycle track. We find that about 68\% of cyclists
ignore the red traffic light when there is the opportunity to do so. This frequency does not change substantially when adult bystanders are observing at the pedestrian traffic light. Interestingly, the violation frequency drops to about 10\% when children are present. Robustness checks rule out the alternative explanations that this change is driven by concerns for children's unpredictable actions, or by the simultaneous presence of other adult bystanders. In a vignette study, we additionally dissect the cyclists{\textquoteright} motives for being compliant. Results suggest a {\textquotedblleft}role-model effect{\textquotedblright} on compliance. When asked, the majority of participants report that the willingness to educate and be a good example is the most important reason for their decision to abide by the law, hence supporting the empirical observation that promoting the social good can be an important non-utilitarian motive of compliance decisions.},
  author       = {H{\"o}ppner, Sven and Fabbri, Marco},
  issn         = {1740-1453 },
  journal      = {JOURNAL OF EMPIRICAL LEGAL STUDIES },
  keyword      = {Behavioral Law and Economics,Social Norms,Social Welfare,Virtuous Motives},
  language     = {eng},
  title        = {Compliance externalities and the role model effect on law abidance : field and survey-experimental evidence },
  year         = {2018},
}