The Behavioral Implications of Individual Legitimacy Judgments: Three Experimental Studies
Legitimacy judgments are commonly assumed to have behavioral implications. However, extant legitimacy research has largely neglected the study of behaviors or studied them in hypothetical settings. We contribute to the literature by investigating individuals’ behavioral support towards a legitimacy object in a series of three controlled and incentivized experiments. We study the effects of two commonly theorized antecedents of legitimacy—normative and instrumental concerns—on behaviors. We manipulate normative concern through the framing of choices and instrumental concern through incentives. Moreover, we investigate whether normative and instrumental concerns have different effects on propriety and validity beliefs. Unlike previous research, which employed measures that conflated the individual-level perceptual components of legitimacy, we distinguish between propriety and validity beliefs by randomly allocating participants to distinct questionnaires. Our results show that normative concern significantly impacts behavioral support. Moreover, normative concern affects propriety and validity beliefs. We find also find that instrumental concern significantly affects behavioral support for the legitimacy object, yet does not impact propriety and validity beliefs. Furthermore, the elicitation of propriety and validity beliefs reduces the impact of instrumental concern on behavioral support. These results are encouraging for behavioral research on the consequences of legitimacy judgments and raise caution about judgment questionnaires as they fail to capture behaviors.