Legitimate or Illegitimate: Insights into validity cues, core values and legitimacy assessments

Siraz, Sonia; Claes, Björn and De Castro, Julio (2018). Legitimate or Illegitimate: Insights into validity cues, core values and legitimacy assessments. In: Academy of Management Proceedings, Academy of Management, 2018(1).


The literature on legitimacy has established that to form legitimacy judgments, individual evaluators process two perceptual inputs. On the one hand, they interpret the behavior of the organization under scrutiny and benchmark it to their personal sets of norms, values, and beliefs. On the other, they interpret the judgments of legitimacy awarding institutions though validity cues that these institutions express. Evaluators use these cues to form a legitimacy judgment about an entity. In this paper, we seek to add to the current knowledge of the legitimacy formation process by answering two questions: (1) what are the relative weights of validity cues in the legitimacy assessments of individual evaluators and (2) what is the moderating influence of independence and pro-environmental values on the effects of the validity cues on the legitimacy judgments. We test our hypotheses using hierarchical linear modeling on 4944 legitimacy assessments nested in 206 individuals. We find that validity cues indicating public support, economic impact, regulations, and longevity have significant effects on legitimacy assessments of individual evaluators. Second, we observe that evaluators make simultaneous use of different validity cues in their judgment that are linked to different sources of validity, and that appeal to different types of legitimacy. Lastly, we find that individual differences in core values and characteristics of evaluators moderate the effect that the validity cues have on the legitimacy judgment.

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