The Effect of Residence Hall Judicial Pollcies on Attitudes toward Rule-Violating Behaviors

Ellen S. Cohn, University of New Hampshire - Main Campus
Rodney Triplet, Northern State College
Susan O. White, University of New Hampshire - Main Campus


As part of a longitudinal study of legal socialization (N= 507), a subset of the sample (n= 87) was chosen for an exploratory naturalistic experiment of the effect of manipulated residence hall judicial policies on attitudes toward rule-violating behavior. Freshman students who directly participated in the functioning of their dormitory judicial system (n= 26) expressed attitudes less tolerant of rule-violating behaviors than did freshman students (n= 12) who had no control over how rules were enforced. Students in both of these experimental conditions expressed attitudes less tolerant of rule-violating behavior than did those (n= 49) living in two control dormitories operating under the usual university policies. While noting the problem of confounds inherent in naturalistic designs, the results are interpreted as suggesting that while the imposition of strict rules by an external authority can result in attitudinal compliance, a stronger effect can be achieved by fostering shared values through active student participation in the judicial system. The implications of these findings are interpreted within the context of control theory.