When norms turn perverse: the lack of contextual rationality and traffic norms violation

Ana-Maria Ţepordei, Grigore Havîrneanu, Ştefan Boncu

Abstract: A perverse norm is a norm whose objective is occasionally not road safety but the mere punishment of the drivers who violate it. Consequently, drivers perceive these norms as irrational and inefficient for the real traffic situation. The aim of our research is to first identify a set of traffic norms rated as perverse in certain contexts by the majority of drivers, and secondly to analyze the anti-normative behaviour in those situations. Results show the importance of norms being perceived as perverse and the driver’s behaviour of violating these norms as well as the connection between this factor and other psychological dimensions such as risk perception, conformism, sanction efficacy, self-evaluation biases. Our study concludes that when trying to find the cause of a norm-violating behaviour, besides the factors that are “well-known”, one should also consider the degree to which drivers perceive norms as being perverse in a specific context.
Key-words: perverse norm, system of moral reasoning, lack of rationality

Rezumat: O normă perversă este acea normă a cărei aplicare în anumite situaţii nu are drept obiectiv creşterea siguranţei traficului, ci doar sancţionarea şoferilor care o încalcă; drept urmare, aceştia o percep ca iraţională, neadaptată necesităţilor reale ale situaţiei. Obiectivul cercetării este de a identifica un set de astfel de norme rutiere considerate perverse în anumite cazuri de majoritatea şoferilor, şi apoi de a analiza sfera comportamentelor anti-normative specifice acestor situaţii. Rezultatele indică importanţa percepţiei şoferului asupra perversităţii situaţionale a normelor în comiterea de abateri, ca şi legăturile dintre acest factor şi alte dimensiuni psihologice, ca percepţia riscului, conformism, eficacitatea sancţiunilor, bias-urile de auto-evaluare. Concluzia este că în căutarea cauzelor unui comportament anti-normativ din trafic, pe lângă factorii deja „consacraţi” ar trebui să avem în atenţie şi măsura în care şoferii percep normele ca fiind perverse în contexte specifice.
Cuvinte-cheie: normă perversă, raţionament moral, lipsa raţionalităţii

Résumé: Par norme perverse on comprend la norme dont l’application dans certaines situations n’a pas comme objectif l’augmentation de la sécurité du trafic mais seulement la punition des conducteurs qui la viole. Par conséquence, les individus perçoivent la norme comme irrationnelle, inadéquate aux vrais nécessites de la situation. L’objectif de notre recherche est d’identifier des telles normes considérées perverses par la majorité des automobilistes et d’analyser les comportements anti-normatifs spécifiques dans ces situations. Les résultats indiquent l’importance de la perception des conducteurs sur la perversité situationnelle des normes dans les actes de déviance tout comme les liaisons entre ce facteur et autres dimensions psychologiques, comme la perception du risque, le conformisme, l’efficacité des sanctions, les biaises d’auto-évaluation etc. La conclusion de notre étude est qu’il faut ajouter la mesure dans laquelle le conducteur perçoit la norme comme perverse aux facteurs traditionnellement considères comme causes des comportements anti-normatifs dans le trafic.
Mots-clés : norme perverse, raisonnement morale, manque de la rationalité

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