Psychology and the Law

Tom R. Tyler

in The Oxford Handbook of Law and Politics

Published in print August 2008 | ISBN: 9780199208425
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Political Science

Psychology and the Law


The range of issues that can fall within the overall intersection of law and psychology is broad. Whenever the development of law and/or the functioning of legal institutions has a psychological component, research is relevant. In some cases, the development of the law itself is based upon psychology. Social psychology emphasizes that self-regulatory motivations can also be activated if people believe that they have an obligation to conform to the law. This article examines the implications of basic social psychological research for understanding human motivation in general and the specific types of motivation that lead people to obey the law and comply with legal authorities. In particular, it discusses the deterrence model, problems with the deterrence model, commitment based on legitimacy and moral values, value-based perspectives on motivation, and procedural fairness as the basis of legitimacy.

Keywords: law; psychology; social psychology; human motivation; deterrence model; legitimacy; moral values; procedural fairness

Article.  5300 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Politics and Law

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