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The Sequential Analysis of Transgressors' Accounts of Breaking Environmental Laws

  • Ana M. Martín (a1), María Esther Salazar-Laplace (a1) and Cristina Ruiz (a1)


Three-hundred and twenty written accounts of environmental transgressors were assessed by sequential analysis to reveal their argument streams. The accounts were obtained from the written statements that transgressors are allowed to give during the Spanish administrative process and which were included in files handled by four environmental law enforcement agencies. These agencies are distributed across national, regional, island and municipality jurisdictions. The setting for the study is a highly protected environment in which environmental laws have high salience. Results reveal that transgressors use simple argument streams, consistently more defensive than conciliatory, and questioning the perceived legitimacy of environmental law. It was seen also that the empirical functioning of the explanations related to pursuing emotional/prosocial objectives differs from what was expected from the traditional conceptual definition. Results are discussed in terms of how the assessment of the internal dynamic of the accounts would provide valuable information on transgressors' reasoning in relation to environmental laws.

Se examinaron 320 explicaciones exculpatorias dadas por transgresores medioambientales para evaluar, mediante análisis secuencial, sus líneas argumentales. Las explicaciones se obtuvieron a partir de alegaciones que los transgresores pueden presentar por escrito a lo largo del proceso español de sanción administrativa y que estaban incluidas en expedientes tramitados por cuatro administraciones encargadas de aplicar las leyes medioambientales a nivel nacional, autonómico, insular y municipal. El contexto del estudio es un entorno protegido en el que las leyes medioambientales tienen una alta relevancia. Los resultados muestran que los transgresores usan secuencias argumentales simples, consistentemente más defensivas que conciliadoras, y que cuestionan la legitimidad de la ley medioambiental. Se observó también que, empíricamente, las explicaciones relacionadas con la consecución de objetivos emocionales/prosociales funcionan de manera diferente a la esperada según la definición conceptual clásica. Los resultados se discuten enfatizando cómo el análisis de la dinámica interna de las explicaciones proporciona información valiosa acerca del razonamiento de los transgresores respecto a las leyes medioambientales.


Corresponding author

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Ana M. Martín, Departamento de Psicología Social, Facultad de Psicología., Universidad de La Laguna. Campus de Guajara. 38205- La Laguna (Spain). Phone: 922317518. Fax: 922317461. E-mail:


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The Sequential Analysis of Transgressors' Accounts of Breaking Environmental Laws

  • Ana M. Martín (a1), María Esther Salazar-Laplace (a1) and Cristina Ruiz (a1)


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