How law changes the environmental mind: An experimental study of the effect of legal norms on moral perceptions and civic enforcement

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Abstract

This paper examines how different legal instruments affect people's moral intuitions and willingness to engage in social enforcement in the field of environmental law. These instruments vary in terms of their governance technique, the process through which they were enacted, and their allocation of enforcement responsibilities. Their effect on citizens' moral evaluation and emotional reaction to corporate polluting behaviour are examined, based on an experimental survey of a representative sample of 1400 individuals in Israel. Our findings demonstrate that their design influences people's level of moral and emotional resentment when faced by environmentally problematic behaviour, as well as their motivation to engage in private enforcement. The design of the regulatory instrument could thus generate biases in social reactions to polluting behaviour, irrespective of its actual ecological adverse effect. We analyse the moral and psychological mechanisms which underlie these effects and explore their various policy implications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)501-535
Number of pages35
JournalJournal of Law and Society
Volume36
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2009

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