Tom R. Tyler

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Tom R. Tyler
Born (1950-03-03) March 3, 1950 (age 68)
Columbus, OH
Residence New Haven, CT
Citizenship U.S.A.
Alma mater Columbia, UCLA
Known for Why people obey the law

Kalven prize for "paradigm shifting scholarship in the study of law and society". Law and Society Association, 2000.

Lifetime achievement award for promoting interdisciplinary research on social justice. International Society for Justice Research, 2012.
Scientific career
Fields Social Psychology and Law
Institutions New York University and Yale
Thesis Drawing inferences from experiences: the effects of crime victimization experiences upon crime-related attitudes and behaviors (1978)
Notable students Steven L. Blader, Yuen J. Huo

Tom R. Tyler (born March 3, 1950) is a professor of psychology and law at Yale Law School, known for his contributions to understanding why people obey the law. A 2012 review article on procedural justice by Anthony Bottoms and Justice Tankebe noted that, "Unquestionably the dominant theoretical approach to legitimacy within these disciplines is that of 'procedural justice,' based especially on the work of Tom Tyler.".[1] Professor Tyler has been at New York University since 1997; in January 2012, he joined the faculty at Yale.

Tyler is the author or co-author of 9 books and an editor for 6 others. His widely cited 1990 book on Why People Obey the Law was republished in 2006 with a new afterword discussing more recent research and changes in his thinking since its initial publication.

Tyler and Huo (2002) is based on surveys of people in different ethnic groups to understand their concepts of justice. They found that minority African-Americans and Hispanics have essentially the same concept of justice as majority whites but different experiences. They describe two alternative strategies for effective law enforcement:

  • Deterrence: effective but inefficient
  • Process-based: efficient and effective

The difference in efficiency follows, because people who perceive that they may be victimized unfairly by law enforcement are less likely to cooperate. Tyler and Huo's analyses suggests that biased, unprofessional behavior of police, prosecutors and judges not only produces concerns of injustice, it cripples law enforcement efforts by making it more difficult for police and prosecutors to obtain the evidence needed to convict guilty parties.

Tyler and Blader (2000) discussed procedural justice and cooperative behavior and how they impact the performance of more general groups through their effect on social identity and cooperative behavior.


Tyler, Tom R. (1990). Why People Obey the Law. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-04403-8.

Tyler, Tom R. (2006). Why People Obey the Law (With a new afterword ed.). ISBN 9780691126739.

Tyler, Tom R.; Huo, Yuen J. (2002). Trust in the Law: Encouraging Public Cooperation with the Police and Courts. Russell Sage Foundation. ISBN 0871548895.

Tyler, Tom R.; Blader, Steven L. (2000). Cooperation in Groups: Procedural Justice, Social Identity, and Behavioral Engagement. Psychology Press. ISBN 1-84169-006-6.


  1. ^ Bottoms, Anthony; Tankebe, Justice (2012). "Beyond Procedural Justice: A Dialogic Approach to Legitimacy in Criminal Justice" (PDF). Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. 201 (1): 119–170. Retrieved December 13, 2012.