In the population, the knowledge of the law is at best fragmentary. It takes law students years to handle the law properly. How is the law nonetheless able to govern people's lives? To find an explanation, this paper draws on neurobiology, developmental psychology, and the psychology of learning.
Typically, the law reaches its addressees indirectly. The law is not followed, it is learned. There are two learning objects. In childhood, individuals acquire normative proficiency, i.e. the ability to handle normative expectations. This procedural knowledge is gradually filled with the declarative knowledge of individual normative expectations of legal origin.
If the law changes, through secondary learning, individuals must acquire new normative expectations. To that end, some intermediary must translate the new rule into a more contextualized social mirror rule. If changes are fundamental, as after the fall of the iron curtain, individuals must also learn new ways to handle normative expectations.