Rule Conditionality, Deterrence and Compliance


Rule Conditionality assesses the rigidity of one’s views about when it is acceptable to violate legal rules. Derived from Tyler’s work on the Perceived Obligation to Obey the Law (POOL), Rule Conditionality captures a key internal element of voluntary compliance. Among a sample of 354 adults, this paper describes the first empirical validation of the Rule Conditionality Scale and demonstrates its convergent validity with POOL. In addition, we examine whether Rule Conditionality predicts compliance behavior across a series of hypothetical, low-level crimes. Results suggest that Rule Conditionality plays a crucial role in predicting compliant behavior as it moderates the effects of deterrence. Specifically, individuals with higher Rule Conditionality are less likely to comply, even when there is an explicit deterrence message and when they perceive a high threat of sanctions. On the other hand, low Rule Conditionality amplifies subjective deterrence, especially when no explicit deterrence message exists. These findings have implications for our understanding of deterrence, and especially the deterrability of offenders.

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