Beto Chair Speaker Advocates Self-Regulatory Policing

Dr. Tom Tyler, Yale Law School

Dr. Tom Tyler, a leading expert on the social psychology of law and advocate for procedural justice, will present the Beto Chair Lecture on “Legitimacy and policing: The benefits of self-regulation” on March 29 in the Criminal Justice Courtroom.

Dr. Tyler, a Senior Research Scholar at Yale Law School, joined the faculty in January as a Professor of Law. He is a former professor at New York University, where he chaired the Department of Psychology and taught at the law school since 1997.

Dr. Tyler’s research and teaching has focused on social psychology and the psychology of procedural justice—the fairness of group rules and processes, and the motivations that lead people to cooperate when they are within groups. Among his many publications are the books, Why People Cooperate (2011), Psychology and the Design of Legal Institutions (2007), Why People Obey the Law (2006), and Trust in the Law: Encouraging Public Cooperation with the Police and Courts (2002). He was awarded the Kalvin prize for “paradigm shifting scholarship in the study of law and society” by the Law and Society Association in 2000.

Police officer writing a ticket for a motorist. The Beto Lecture presentation will focus on policing and legitimacy. Dr. Tyler advocates the value of a self-regulatory approach to law and criminal justice. He argues that the dominant approach today of deterrence and punishment is costly and minimally effective, both in achieving compliance with the law and promoting the acceptance of legal authority. .

Instead, Dr. Tyler said that the way the police exercise authority and the procedures that they use are central to how people react to the police. If the police are perceived to be legitimate, the public will willingly and voluntarily cooperate with them.

In his research on profiling and community policing, Dr. Tyler found that citizens of all races show greater respect for law enforcement when they believe officers are treating them fairly. Even citizens who experienced a negative outcome, such as getting a traffic ticket, showed higher levels of respect for and cooperation with law enforcement as long as they believed they were not being singled out unfairly. Unabomber Ted Kaczynski
Unabomber Ted Kaczynski
Prior to joining NYU in 1997, Dr. Tyler taught at the University of California, Berkeley, and at Northwestern University. While at Berkeley, Dr. Tyler corresponded with Unabomber Ted Kaczynski in a series of open letters in the San Francisco Chronicle in a debate over the serial terrorist’s contention that technology should be dismantled in the society. Dr. Tyler said while technology has taken its toll, he condemned the violence and said a peaceful revolution is underway.

In addition to his work with policing and the criminal justice system, Dr. Tyler’s research focuses on social justice; organizational/social psychology; and the psychology of authority.

Dr. Tyler holds a B.A. in psychology from Columbia and an M.A. and Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of California at Los Angeles.

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