“Let's Do The Fracking Talk: An Experimental Approach To Understanding Legitimacy Perceptions”

Claes, Björn; Siraz, Sonia and De Castro, Julio (2019). “Let's Do The Fracking Talk: An Experimental Approach To Understanding Legitimacy Perceptions”. In: Academy of Management Proceedings, Academy of Management.


The literature on legitimacy has established that to form legitimacy judgments, individual evaluators process two perceptual inputs. They interpret the behavior of the entity under scrutiny and benchmark it to their personal sets of norms, values, and beliefs, and they interpret the judgments of legitimacy awarding institutions through the validity cues that these institutions convey. Building on the literatures on legitimacy perception, on independence and pro-environmental values, we offer an evaluation model of legitimacy judgment formation and test this model on 5,928 assessments about the use of a new technology of fracking made by 247 observers. We find that variance in legitimacy evaluations depends both on the validity cues from legitimacy awarding institutions, on evaluators’ basic values, and the interaction between the two. Specifically, we observe that four validity cues - public support, economic impact, regulations, and longevity - are used simultaneously and have significant effects on the legitimacy judgment but also that regulations bolster the effects of the other cues. Lastly, we find that differences in evaluators’ basic values moderate the effect of the validity cues on legitimacy judgments. Particularly, higher pro-environmental values of evaluators suggest less favorable perceptions of high economic impact; higher pro-environmental values suggest more favorable perceptions when public support is high. Intriguingly, the higher the pro-environmental values as well as the higher the level of independence, an established venture is perceived as more legitimate than a new venture.

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