Law as a Social Trap

Problems and Possibilities for the Future
  • Dean E. Peachey
  • Melvin J. Lerner
Part of the Critical Issues in Social Justice book series (CISJ)


When we think about the law, we are faced with a curious set of contrasts. We have come to rely heavily on the legal structures in our everyday lives. Ideally, the law guarantees a wide array of personal and civil liberties. It ensures education for our children, provides a structure for our business transactions, and serves to curb the power and ambitions of our governments. In addition, the law prescribes what is right and good in our society, and it offers sanctions for those who would trangress those values and pose a threat to us or our security. Of course, we recognize that the law is not perfect and that courts sometimes make mistakes, but few of us would dispute the claim that, all things considered, our system of law and justice is a relatively good one and that “if the law were abolished today, it would have to be reinvented tomorrow.”


Legal System Crime Rate Dispute Settlement Legal Institution Legal Service 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Andenaes, J. The moral or educative influence of criminal law. In J. L. Tapp & F. J. Levine (Eds.), Law, justice, and the individual in society. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1977.Google Scholar
  2. Aronson, E., & Carlsmith, J. M. Effect of the severity of threat on the devaluation of forbidden behavior. Journal of Abnormal and Social Behavior, 1963, 1, 145–155.Google Scholar
  3. Baden, J. A primer for the management of common pool resources. In G. Hardin & J. Baden (Eds.), Managing the commons. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman, 1977.Google Scholar
  4. Bayley, D., & Mendelsohn, H. Minorities and the police. New York: Free Press, 1969.Google Scholar
  5. Bern, D. Self-perception theory. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology, Vol. 6. New York: Academic Press, 1972.Google Scholar
  6. Black, D. J. The behavior of law. New York: Academic Press, 1976.Google Scholar
  7. Blumstein, A., Cohen, J., & Nagin, D. Deterrence and incapaation: Estimating the effects of criminal sanctions on crimes. Washington: National Academy of Sciences, 1978.Google Scholar
  8. Boorstin, D. The perils of indwelling law, in R. P. Wolfe (Ed.), The rule of law. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1971.Google Scholar
  9. Bordua, D. J., & Tifft, L. L. Citizen interviews, organizational feeeback, and police-community relations decisions. Law & Society Review, 1971, 6, 155–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brown, L. R., McGrath, P. L., & Stokes, B. Twenty-two dimensions of the population problem. Washington: Worldwatch Institute, 1976.Google Scholar
  11. Casper, J. D. American criminal justice: The defendant’s perspective. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1972.Google Scholar
  12. Casper, J. D. Having their day in court: Defendant evaluations of the fairness of their treatment. Law & Society Review, 1977, 12, p. 237–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chein, I. There ought to be a law: But why? Journal of Social Issues, 1975, 31, 221–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chiricos, T. G., Jackson, P. D., & Waldo, G. P. Inequality in the imposition of a criminal label. Social Problems, 1972, 19, 553.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Clarke, S. H., & Koch, G. C. The influence of income and other factors on whether criminal defendants go to prison. Law & Society Review, 1976, 11, 57–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Davis, R. Evaluation of the use of mediation in resolving felony offenses. Paper presented at American Psychological Association, New York, 1979.Google Scholar
  17. Deutsch, M., & Krauss, R. M. The effect of threat on interpersonal bargaining, Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 1960, 61, 181–189.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Ehrlich, P. R., & Ehrlich, A. H. Population, resources, environment: Issues in human ecology. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman, 1970.Google Scholar
  19. Farrell, R. A., & Swigert, V. L. Prior offense record as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Law & Society Review, 1978, 12, 437–453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Friedman, L. M. Law and society. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1977.Google Scholar
  21. Galanter, M. Delivering legality: Some proposals for the direction of research. Law & Society Review, 1976, 11, 225–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Greer, S. A. The emerging city. New York: Free Press 1962.Google Scholar
  23. Hannigan, J. A. The newspaper ombudsman and consumer complaints: An empirical assessment. Law & Society Review, 1977, 11, 679–699.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hardin, G. The tragedy of the commons. Science, 1968, 162, 1243–1248.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Hardin, G., & Baden, J. Managing the commons. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman, 1977.Google Scholar
  26. Heider, F. The psychology of interpersonal relations. New York: Wiley, 1958.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Heilbroner, R. L. An inquiry into the human prospect. New York: W. W. Norton, 1974.Google Scholar
  28. Johnson, E., Kantor, V., & Schwartz, E. Outside the courts: A survey of diversion alternatives court cases. Denver: National Center for the State Courts, 1977.Google Scholar
  29. Jones, R. A. Self-fulfilling prophecies. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum, 1977.Google Scholar
  30. Kelley, H. H. The processes of causal attribution. American Psychologist, 1973, 28, 107–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kelley, H. H., & Stahelski, A. J. Social interaction basis of cooperators’ and competitors’ beliefs about others, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1970, 16, 66–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kelling, G. L., Pate, T., Dieckman, D., & Brown, C. E. The Kansas City preventive patrol experiment: A technical report. Washington D.C.: Police Foundation, 1974.Google Scholar
  33. Kidder, L. H., Kidder, R. L., & Snyderman, P. A cross-lagged correlational analysis of the causal relationship between police employment and crime rates. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, 1976.Google Scholar
  34. Klemke, L. W. Does apprehension for shoplifting amplify or terminate shoplifting activity? Law & Society Review, 1978, 12, 391–403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kruglanski, A. W. Attributing trustworthiness in supervisor-worker relations, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 1970, 6, 214–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lakey, G. Strategy for a living revolution. New York: Grossman, 1973.Google Scholar
  37. Langer, E. J. Rethinking the role of thought in social interactions. In J. H. Harvey, W. T. Ickes, & R. F. Kidd (Eds.), New directions in attribution research, Vol. 2. Potomac, Md.: Erlbaum, 1978.Google Scholar
  38. Langer, E. J., & Rodin, J. The effects of choice and enhanced personal responsibility for the aged: A field experiment in an institutional setting. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1976, 34, 191–198.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Lempert, R. O. Mobilizing private law: An introductory essay. Law & Society Review, 1976, 11, 173–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lepper, M. R., & Greene, D. Overjustification research and beyond: Toward a mean-ends analysis of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. In M. Lepper & D. Greene (Eds.), The hidden costs of reward. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum, 1978.Google Scholar
  41. Lerner, M. J. Justified self-interest: A replication and extension, Journal of Human Relations, 1971, 20, 127–135.Google Scholar
  42. Lerner, M. J. The law as a social trap. Culture Learning Institute Report, August 1976.Google Scholar
  43. Lerner, M. J. The justice motive: Some hypotheses as to its origin and forms. Journal of Personality, 1977, 45, 1–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lerner, M. J., Dillehay, R. C., & Sherer, W. C. Similarity and attraction in social contexts. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1967, 51, 481–486.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lerner, M. J., & Lichtman, R. R. Effects of perceived norms on attitudes and altruistic behavior toward a dependent other. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1968, 9, 226–232.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Lerner, S. C. Behavior in the crunch. Alternatives, 1979, 8-2, 5-11.Google Scholar
  47. Macaulay, S. Non-contractual relations in business: A preliminary study. American Sociological Review, 1963, 28, 55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Mahoney, A. R. The effect of labeling upon youths in the juvenile justice system: A review of the evidence. Law & Society Review, 1974, 8, 583–614.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. McGillis, D., & Mullen, J. Neighborhood justice centers: An analysis of potential models. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1977.Google Scholar
  50. Meadows, D. H., Meadows, D. L., Randers, J., & Behrens, W., III. The limits to growth. New York: Universe, 1972.Google Scholar
  51. Menninger, K. The crime of punishment. New York: Viking, 1969.Google Scholar
  52. Morris, D., & Hess, K. Neighborhood power: The new localism. Boston: Beacon, 1975.Google Scholar
  53. Nader, L. Perspectives on the law and order problem. In M. J. Lerner & M. Ross (Eds.), The quest for justice: Myth, reality and ideal. Toronto: Holt, Rinehart & Winston of Canada, 1974.Google Scholar
  54. Nader, L. Forums for justice: A cross-cultural perspective. The Journal of Social Issues, 1975, 31, 151–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Nader, L., & Metzger, D. Conflict resolution in two Mexican communities. In D. Black & M. Mileski (Eds.), The social organization of law. New York: Seminar Press, 1973.Google Scholar
  56. Nader, R. Consumerism and legal services: The merging of movements. Law & Society Review, 1976, 11, 247–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Nemeth, C. Effects of free versus constrained behavior on attraction between people. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1970, 15, 302–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Newsweek, Over the oil barrel. July 9, 1979, 18-26.Google Scholar
  59. New York Times, Transcript of President’s address to country on energy problems. July 17, 1979.Google Scholar
  60. Ostrom, V., & Ostrom, E. A theory for institutional analysis of common pool problems. In G. Hardin & J. Baden (Eds.), Managing tbe commons. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman, 1977.Google Scholar
  61. Platt, J. Social traps. American Psychologist, 1973, 28, 641–651.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Quinney, R. Critique of the legal order. Boston: Little, Brown, 1974.Google Scholar
  63. Reisman, D. The lonely crowd. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1950.Google Scholar
  64. Rogers, E. M. Social structure and social change. American Behavioral Scientist, 1971, 14, 691–718.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Ross, M. Salience of reward and intrinsic motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1975, 25, 245–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Sarat, A. Studying American legal culture: An assessment of survey evidence. Law & Society Review, 1977, 22, 427–488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Schumacher, E. F. Small is beautiful: A study of economics as if people mattered. London: Sphere Books, 1974.Google Scholar
  68. Schwartz, R. D. Social control in two Israeli settlements. In D. Black & M. Mileski (Eds.), The social organization of law. New York: Seminar Press, 1973.Google Scholar
  69. Schwartz, R. D., & Miller, J. C. Legal evolution and societal complexity. In D. Black & M. Mileski (Eds.), The social organization of law, New York: Seminar Press, 1973.Google Scholar
  70. Sheppard, D. The 1967 drink and driving campaign: A survey among drivers. Crowthome, Eng.: Road Research Laboratory, 1968.Google Scholar
  71. Sherif, M. In Common predicament: Social psychology of intergroup conflict and cooperation. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1966.Google Scholar
  72. Singer, B. D. Feedback and society: A study of the uses of mass channels for coping. Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1973.Google Scholar
  73. Smith, P., & Hawkins, R. Victimization, types of police contact, and attitudes toward police. Law & Society Review, 1973, 8, 135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Stern, P. C. When do people act to maintain common resources? Reformulated psychological question for our times. International Journal of Psychology, 1978, 13, 149–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Stern, P. C., & Kirpatrick, E. M. Energy behavior: Conservation without coercion. Environment, 1977, 19, 10–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Strickland, L. H. Surveillance and trust. Journal of Personality, 1958, 26, 200–215.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  77. Stulberg, J. A. Civil alternative to criminal prosecution. Albany Law Review, 1975, 39, 359–376.Google Scholar
  78. Swett, D. H. Cultural bias in the American legal system, Law and Society Review, 1969, 4, 79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. United Nations. Assessment of the world food situation, present and future world food conference. Rome: United Nations, 1974.Google Scholar
  80. VORP. The developmental steps of the Victim/Offender Reconciliation Project, Kitchener, Ont. Unpublished paper, on file with the authors, 1977.Google Scholar
  81. Walster, E. G., Walster, W., & Berscheid, E. Equity theory and research. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1978.Google Scholar
  82. White, R. K. Misperception and the Vietnam War. Journal of Social Issues, 1966, 22, 1–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Wrightsman, L. S. Personality and attitude correlates of trusting and untrustworthy behaviors in a two-person game. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1966, 41, 328–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dean E. Peachey
    • 1
  • Melvin J. Lerner
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

Personalised recommendations