How the Law Shapes our Beliefs

Does the law influence our personal moral compass?

  • Date: 07 FEBRUARY 2023  from 17:30 to 19:30

  • Event location: In presence and online event

  • Type: Lectures

It is often the case that we must live a situation where our moral compass collides with law, either because we want a practice to become legal when it is not, or because we want a practice that became legal to remain illegal. However, does the law itself influence our personal value system? And what if the law of the jurisdiction a person currently lives in conflicts with the law of the jurisdiction they come from? We address these questions in the context of affirmative action in U.S. colleges and universities. As of 2022, ten states have enacted legislation banning race-based affirmative action in public universities. Beyond a direct effect on college admissions, there may be unintended consequences of such bans. Banning affirmative action may alter citizens’ views on redistribution and racial relations, as well as other attitudes on seemingly unrelated topics, which may ultimately determine future policies. To capture how legal changes shape people’s stance on these issues, and to capture which jurisdiction matters most, our research project investigates how affirmative action bans have affected millions of college students’ views using the data collected by the Higher Education Research Institute which has assessed the opinions, experiences, and attitudes of American college and university students for over five decades. We compare results across college types, with particular focus on selective colleges, where most of the controversy around affirmative action originates.


Stéphane Mechoulan

Dalhousie University, Halifax

Visit Prof. Mechoulan's web page

PhD students and researchers who are interested may request an attendance certificate.