The Impact of Laws on Norms Perceptions

Léïla Eisner, Felicity Turner-Zwinkels, Dario Spini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


When opinions in a society change toward more or less tolerance of a group, people do not necessarily see it. Drawing on a quasi-representative survey (Study 1, N = 830) and a natural experiment (Study 2, N = 437), we investigated people's perceptions of the societal norms toward sexual minorities and the influence of laws on these (mis-)perceptions. Study 1 indicated pluralistic ignorance as participants overestimated the societal disapproval toward same-sex issues. Complementing this finding, Study 2 found that informing participants about a new law legalizing stepchild adoption decreased perceived societal disapproval of same-sex parenting compared with participants not informed about the law. Pluralistic ignorance, however, was not affected by the new law. While results indicate that pluralistic ignorance may be more resilient to change, they also highlight that laws can have a dual impact on societies, changing not only the legal situation but also shifting perceptions of societal norms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1071-1083
Number of pages13
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • Attitude
  • Humans
  • Perception
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities
  • Social Norms
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


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