Lay Evaluations of Encounters with Government Officials

Do Expectations Serve as Filters and Standards?
  • Loretta J. Stalans
Part of the Social Psychological Applications to Social Issues book series (SPAS, volume 3)


People often evaluate the actions of government institutions and officials in their own encounters with officials and in encounters described by members of their social network. Research suggests people form separate evaluations of the fairness of the process used in making decisions (commonly known as procedural justice) and the fairness of final outcomes (commonly known as distributive justice). For supportive research see Thibaut and Walker (1978), Lind and Tyler (1988). This chapter addresses the decision-making process underlying lay evaluations of procedural fairness. This examination serves two purposes: First, it explores the application of cognitive heuristics and biases in the real world. Second, it addresses a gap in the procedural justice literature which has been more concerned with the content of evaluations than with how people form evaluations.


Government Official Procedural Justice Unfair Treatment Fair Treatment Availability Heuristic 
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. Brockner, J., Tyler, T. R., & Cooper-Schneider, R. (1992). The influence of prior commitment to an institution on reactions to perceived unfairness: The higher they are, the harder they fall. Administrative Science Quarterly, 37, 241–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bittner, E. (1967). The police on skid row: A study of peace keeping. American Sociological Review, 32, 699–715.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Casper, J. (1978). Having their day in court: Defendant evaluations of the fairness of their treatment. Law and Society Review, 22, 483–507.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cohen, J. (1977). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  5. Cohen, R. L. (1985). Procedural justice and participation. Human Relations, 38, 643–663.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Deutsch, M. (1982). Interdependence and psychological orientation. In V. J. Derlega & J. Gzelak (Eds.), Cooperation and helping behavior: Theories and research (pp. 15–24). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  7. Easton, D. (1965). A systems analysis of political life. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  8. Fazio, R. H., & Zanna, M. P. (1981). Direct experience and attitude behavior consistency. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology, (Vol. 14, pp. 161–202). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  9. Fiske, S. T., & Neuberg, S. L. (1990). A continuum model of impression formation from category-based to individuating responses: Influence of information and motivation on attention and interpretation. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 23, pp. 1–74). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  10. Jussim, L. (1991). Social perception and social reality: A reflection-construction model. Psychological Review, 98, 54–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Kahneman, D., & Miller, D. T. (1986). Norm theory: Comparing reality to its alternatives. Psychological Review, 93, 136–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kruglanski, A. W. (1989). The psychology of being “right”: The problem of accuracy in social perception and cognition. Psychological Bulletin, 106, 395–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Laver, M. (1981). The politics of private desires. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  14. Lind, E. A. (1992a). Procedural justice and procedural preferences: Evidence for a fairness heuristic. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Association of Conflict Management, Minneapolis, MN.Google Scholar
  15. Lind, E. A., & Tyler, T. R. (1988). The social psychology of procedural justice. New York: Plenum.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Lind, E. A., MacCoun, R. J., Ebener, P. A., Felstiner, W. L. F, Hensler, D. R., Resnik, J., & Tyler, T. R. (1990). In the eye of the beholder: Tort litigants’ evaluations of their experience in the civil justice system. Law and Society Review, 24, 953–996.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. McEwen, C. A., & Maiman, R. J. (1984). Mediation in small claims court: Achieving compliance through consent. Law and Society Review, 18, 11–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Miller, D. T., Turnball, W., & McFarland, C. (1990). Counterfactual thinking and social perception: Thinking about what might have been. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 23, 305–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. O’Barr, W. M., & Conley, J. M. (1988). Lay expectations of the civil justice system. Law and Society Review, 22, 137–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Pruitt, D. G., & Rubin, J. Z. (1986). Social conflict: Escalation, stalemate, and settlement. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  21. Sarat, A. (1977). Studying American legal culture: An assessment of survey evidence. Law and Society Review, 11, 427–488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Schwarz, N., & Bless, H. (1992). Constructing reality and its alternatives: An inclusion/exclusion model of assimilation and contrast effects in social judgment. In L. Martin & A. Tesser (Eds.), The construction of social judgments (pp. 217–245). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  23. Shaffer, D. R., & Kerwin, J. (1992). Reply to Whitley and reaffirmation of our conclusions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 18, 685–689.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Sherman, S. J., & Corty, E. (1984). Cognitive heuristics. In R. S. Wyer & T. K. Srull (Eds.), Handbook of social cognition (Vol. 1, pp. 189–286). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  25. Smith, E. R. (1990). Content and process specificity in the effects of prior experiences. In T. K. Srull & R. S. Wyer (Eds.), Advances in social cognition (Vol. 3, pp. 1–59). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  26. Stalans, L. J. (1988). Sentencing in ambiguous cases: Prototypes, perceived similarity, and anchoring. Unpublished Master’s thesis, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago.Google Scholar
  27. Stalans, L. J. (1992a). Citizens’ procedural expectations for an upcoming tax audit: Their nature and formation. Social Justice Research, 5, 93–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Stalans, L. J. (1992b). The group-value model and politeness effects: The implications for social status depend on the context. Paper presented at the Southeastern Psychological Association Annual Meeting, Knoxville, TN.Google Scholar
  29. Stalans, L. J. (1993). Citizens’ crime stereotypes, biased recall and punishment preferences in abstract cases: The educative role of interpersonal sources. Law and Human Behavior, 17, 451–470.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Stalans, L. J. (in press). Forming procedural expectations about unfamiliar legal arenas: Do people generalize from loosely related past legal experiences. Psychology, Crime and Law. Google Scholar
  31. Stalans, L. J., & Smith, K. W (1992). Procedural criteria in taxpayers’ evaluations of their audit process: Differences across persons and situations. (American Bar Foundation, Working Paper #9205). Chicago, IL: American Bar Foundation.Google Scholar
  32. Taylor, S. E. (1982). The availability bias in social perception and interaction. In D. Kahneman, P. Solvic, & A. Tversky (Eds.), Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases (pp. 190–200). New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Thibaut, J., & Walker, L. (1978). A theory of procedure. California Law Review, 66, 541–566.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1974). Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. Science, 185, 1124–1131.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Tyler, T. R. (1988). What is procedural justice? Criteria used by citizens to assess the fairness of legal procedures. Law and Society Review, 22, 103–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Tyler, T. R. (1989). The psychology of procedural justice: A test of the group-value model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 333–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Tyler, T. R. (1990). Why people follow the law: Procedural justice, legitimacy, and compliance. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Tyler, T. R. (1992). Using procedures to justify outcomes: Managing conflict and allocating resources in work organizations (American Bar Foundation Working Paper #8910). Chicago, IL: American Bar Foundation.Google Scholar
  39. Tyler, T. R., & Lind, E. A. (1992). A relational model of authority in groups. In M. Zunna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology, 25, 115–192. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  40. Tyler, T. R., Casper, J. D., & Fisher, B. (1989). Maintaining allegiance toward political authorities: The role of prior attitudes and the use of fair procedures. American Journal of Political Science, 33, 629–652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Upshaw, H. S. (1969). The personal reference scale: An approach to social judgment. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (pp. 315–371). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Loretta J. Stalans
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Criminal JusticeGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA

Personalised recommendations