Cognitive Development Versus Social Learning Approaches to studying Legal Socialization


The purpose of the present study was to compare the relative influence of social learning versus cognitive developmental factors as predictors of legal reasoning. The sample included 87 men and 132 women who lived in four residence halls. The two experimental residence halls included one in which residents ran their own judicial system and one in which the residence hall staff strictly enforced the rules. Participants reported responses on the following legal reasoning measures: the normative status that a particular behavior had for each individual, the enforcement status (the individual's willingness to accept enforcement of a rule against that behavior), and the frequency of rule-violating behaviors. The results provided stronger support for a cognitive developmental rather than a social learning explanation of normative status and enforcement status of rule-violating behaviors. Because this simple finding could mask a full explanation of legal socialization as suggested by some cognitive developmental theorists, we introduced the interaction between these two factors into the analysis. The interaction was significantly correlated with the frequency of engaging in disorderly behavior, the normative status of destructive behavior, and the enforcement status of all rule-violating behaviors. The implications of the interaction for future theory is discussed.



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Basic and Applied Psychology


Taylor & Francis

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