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PSYCHOLOGICAL FACTORS

Several psychological factors also may impede change generally and therefore weaken the ability of law to produce social change. These factors include habit, motivation, ignorance, selective perception, and moral development.

Habit From a psychological perspective, habit is a barrier to change. Once a habit is established, its operation often becomes satisfying to the individual. People become accustomed to behaving in a certain manner, and they feel comfortable with it. Once a particular form of behavior becomes routinized and habitual, it will resist change. Meyer F Nimkoff (1957) suggested that the customs of a society are collective habits; for this reason, custom is slow to change when challenged by new ideas and practices. To cite just one example, attempts to introduce the metric system in the United States have largely failed. Americans are accustomed to miles and feel uncomfortable with kilometers; they prefer a quart of something to a liter of something. When the law is used as an instrument of social change to alter established customs, it is likely that the compliance with the law will require an active reorientation of the values and behaviors of a significant part of the target population (Zimring and Hawkins, 1975).

Motivation Motivational forces also condition the acceptance of change through law (Ginsberg and Fiene, 2004). Some motivations are culture-bound, in the sense that their presence or absence is characteristic of a particular culture. For instance, religious beliefs in some cultures offer motivations to certain kinds of change, whereas in other cultures these motivations center on the preservation of the status quo. Other kinds of motivations tend to be universal, or nearly universal, in that they cut across societies and cultures. Examples of these motivations include the desire for prestige or for economic gain and the wish to comply with friendship obligations.

Ignorance Ignorance is another psychological factor associated with resistance to change.

At times, ignorance goes hand in hand with fear of the new. In regard to legal change, ignorance can underlie racial prejudice and may thus be a factor in noncompliance with laws designed to reduce discriminatory practices. For example, employers may hold racial biases grounded in ignorance and thus hesitate to hire people of color (Beeghley, 2007).

 
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