The social side of sanctions: personal and social norms as moderators of deterrence

Michael Wenzel

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    In a survey of Australian citizens (valid N = 1,406), personal and social norms were found to moderate effects of deterrence on tax evasion. Personal, internalized norms of tax honesty were negatively related to tax evasion and moderated the effects of deterrence variables (i.e., sanction severity), suggesting deterrence effects only when individual ethics were weak. Perceived social norms, beyond those internalized as personal norms, were not directly related to tax evasion but moderated the effects of sanction severity. Only when social norms were seen as strongly in favor of tax honesty was sanction severity negatively related to tax evasion. This result held only for respondents who did not identify strongly as Australians. Hence, when internalized, norms delimit effects of deterrence; when considered external to one's self, norms boost deterrence effects, giving social meaning to formal sanctions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)547-567
    JournalLaw and Human Behavior
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2004


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