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Do Explicit Reasons Make Legal Intervention More Effective? An Experimental Study

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Engel,  Christoph
Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Max Planck Society;

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Zhurakhovska,  Lilia
Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Engel, C., & Zhurakhovska, L. (2013). Do Explicit Reasons Make Legal Intervention More Effective? An Experimental Study.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0028-6DE4-4
Abstract
When judges or public authorities intervene in citizens' lives, they normally must give explicit reasons. Justification primarily serves the sense of justice. The law's subjects want to understand the intervention. But does justification also have a forward-looking effect? Are individuals more likely to change their behavior in the legally desired direction if the intervention is accompanied by explanation? And do authorities correctly anticipate the effect? To answer these questions under controlled conditions, we use a standard tool from experimental economics. We introduce central punishment to a public goods experiment. In the Baseline, authorities are requested to justify punishment decisions, but the reasons are kept confidential. In the Private treatment, only the addressee learns the justification. In the Public treatment, reasons are made public. Whenever reasons are communicated, there is less monetary punishment. Experimental authorities partly substitute words for action. Yet this is only effective, in the sense of mitigating the dilemma, if reasons are made public.