Daphna Lewinsohn-Zamir, Eyal Zamir, Ori Katz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The threat of sanctions is often insufficient to ensure compliance with legal norms. Recently, much attention has been given to nudges – choice-preserving measures that take advantage of people’s automatic System 1 thinking – as a means of influencing behaviour without sanctions, but nudges are often ineffective and controversial. This article explores the provision of information about the reasons underlying legal norms, as a means to enhance compliance, primarily through deliberative System 2 thinking. While the idea that legal norms should be accompanied by explanatory preambles – to complement the law’s threat of sanctions with persuasion – goes back to Plato, this technique is not commonly used nowadays, and scholars have failed to systematically consider this possibility. The article argues that reason giving can enhance compliance and reduce the need for costly enforcement mechanisms. The theoretical part of the article comprises three parts. It first describes the mechanisms through which reasons may influence people’s behaviour. It then distinguishes between reason giving as a means to enhance compliance and as a means to attain other goals and between reason giving and related means to enhance compliance. Finally, it discusses various policy and pragmatic considerations that bear on the use of reason giving. Following the theoretical discussion, the empirical part of the article uses vignette studies to demonstrate the feasibility and efficacy of the reason-giving technique. The results of these new studies show that providing good reasons for legal norms enhances people’s inclination to comply with them, in comparison to not providing the reasons underlying the norms. However, whereas persuasive reasons may promote compliance, questionable reasons might reduce it. We call on scholars and policy makers to pay more attention to this readily available measure of enhancing compliance with norms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)316-355
Number of pages40
JournalUniversity of Toronto Law Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:


* Dean and Louis Marshall Professor of Environmental Law, Faculty of Law, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel ** Augusto Levi Professor of Commercial Law, Faculty of Law, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel *** Post-Doctoral Fellow, Faculty of Law, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. † For valuable comments on previous drafts, we are grateful to Barak Ariel, Miri Gur-Arye, Yuval Feldman, Eyal Peer, Eric Posner, Doron Teichman, the participants in the thirty-eighth Conference of the European Association of Law and Economics held at Barcelona Graduate School of Economics, the ComplianceNet 2021 Conference held at University College London, the fifteenth Conference for Empirical Legal Studies held at University of Toronto Faculty of Law, and two anonymous reviewers. We thank Roi Yair and Chaggay Yakobi for their excellent research assistance. This research was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (Grant no 699/20) and by the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities Program for Israeli Post-Doctoral Fellows.

FundersFunder number
Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities Program for Israeli Post-Doctoral Fellows
Israel Science Foundation699/20


    • compliance
    • experimental legal studies
    • nudge
    • procedural justice
    • reason giving


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