The effects of priming legal concepts on perceived trust and competitiveness, self-interested attitudes, and competitive behavior


Journal Article

Socio-legal scholars have suggested that, as a ubiquitous social system, law shapes social reality and provides interpretive frameworks for social relations. Across five studies, we tested the idea that the law shapes social reality by fostering the assumptions that people are self-interested, untrustworthy, and competitive. In Studies 1 and 2, we found that people implicitly associated legal concepts with competitiveness. Studies 3-5 showed that these associations had implications for social perceptions, self-interested attitudes, and competitive behavior. After being primed with constructs related to the law, participants perceived social actors as less trustworthy and the situation as more competitive (Study 3), became more against a political issue when it conflicted with their normative self-interest (Study 4), and made more competitive choices during a prisoner's dilemma game when they believed that social relations were basically zero-sum in nature (Study 5). The implications and applications of these results are discussed. © 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Callan, MJ; Kay, AC; Olson, JM; Brar, N; Whitefield, N

Published Date

  • March 1, 2010

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 46 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 325 - 335

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1096-0465

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0022-1031

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.jesp.2009.12.005

Citation Source

  • Scopus