Mental associations between law and competitiveness: A cross-cultural investigation

Pilar Aguilar, Mitchell J. Callan, Rael J. Dawtry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (SciVal)


Previous research suggests that individuals from countries that adopt an adversarial legal system, such as Canada or United Kingdom, mentally associate law more strongly with concepts related to competition than concepts related to cooperation. We examined whether people from a country with a non-adversarial legal system show similar mental associations. Participants from Spain and the UK completed a Single-Category Implicit Association Test. Spanish participants mentally associated the law with competition less strongly than participants from the UK (the average D-score was significantly greater than zero in the predicted direction, t(189) = 8.16, p <.001; d=1.18). Exploratory analysis also suggested that this difference between the countries was stronger among participants who believed that the method of legal practice in their own country was more adversarial. Moreover, perceiving the legal system as adversarial predicted automatic associations between law and competition for UK but not for Spanish participants. These findings suggest that legal system plays a relevant role in shaping not only individuals' actions, but their cognitive processes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere54
JournalSpanish Journal of Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2014


  • adversarial
  • cross-cultural
  • Implicit Association Test
  • inquisitorial
  • legal system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Psychology(all)


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