Why Mexicans (Dis) Obey the Law

Social Norms, Legal Punishment and Pluralistic Ignorance

doi: 10.53116/pgaflr.2022.2.4


This paper presents the results of an experimental research project on the causes of Mexicans’ law-abiding and non-abiding behaviour. Firstly, it explains the theories tested, namely, deterrence and normative theory of law-abidance, and defines the concepts measured. Regarding deterrence theory, the causal efficacy of knowledge of legal punishment was measured and of normative theory that of social and personal norms. Second, it describes how these concepts were operationalised and how the two-stage experimental survey was conducted. Finally, the paper outlines the main results. The statistical analyses show that neither social norms explain unlawful behaviour nor knowledge of legal punishment influence law-abiding behaviour among Mexicans in specific situations. However, the analysis did show a statistically significant disagreement between Mexicans’ behaviour and normative beliefs, which reveals a case of pluralistic ignorance whereby Mexicans behave illegally and believe others approve of illegal behaviour, but they personally disapprove of it. These results, however, would have to be confirmed in a study with a representative sample to be conclusive.


deterrence theory normative theory legal punishment social norms Mexicans' law abiding behaviour

How to Cite

Pérez León, R. Why Mexicans (Dis) Obey the Law: Social Norms, Legal Punishment and Pluralistic Ignorance. Public Governance, Administration and Finances Law Review, 7(2). https://doi.org/10.53116/pgaflr.2022.2.4


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