Models of Contract Law II - Experiment 1
The effect of law model on consensus and coherence formation among near-graduation law student decision-makers.
This extends our Models of Contract Law I decision-making experiments in the following ways:
- Instead of using law students enrolled in Contracts, the participants are recent law graduates or students enrolled in their final year of the LLB or JD degree. The aim is to discover if our previous results on the effect of law model will be replicated with lawyers who are, or are nearly, fully trained.
- The MCL2 materials include, in addition to the original 10 cases used in Models of Contract Law I, 10 new cases. This should tell us if our previous results are an artefact of the particular disputes we used. The 20 cases have been ranked a priori for relative difficulty.
- The statements of law that participants are instructed to use are based on the ACC, Australian Case Law, and the American Restatement (Second) of Contracts. The Restatement replaces the UNIDROIT Principles of International Commercial Contracts used in the previous study.
- The experiment incorporates elements of the Holyoak and Simon (1999) paradigm to test whether coherence formation is affected by law model. At 4 stages in the decision-making process participants are asked to rate their agreement (on a Likert scale) with 6 statements relevant to the dispute, three tending to favour the plaintiff's case, and three tending to favour the defendant's case. The first 6 statements are not context-dependent and are presented before the participant has read the facts of the dispute. The remaining 3 groups of 6 statements (presented after reading the facts, after reading the law, and after making a final decision) are drawn from a pool of 18 statements that do refer to the specific context. (See MCL2 materials.)
Immediately after reading the facts, and again after reading the law (and before being asked to rank their agreement with the statements), participants are asked to indicate whether they are 'leaning towards' a decision for either the plaintiff or the defendant (having been instructed at both points that they should not then make a decision as they have not yet received all of the relevant information).
Experiments 3 and 4 of Models of Contract Law II have already demonstrated that the phenomenon of pre-decision coherence formation (Holyoak and Simon, 1999) can be replicated using our materials in an online paradigm, with participants who are psychology undergraduates (Exp 3) and mid-degree law students (Exp 4).
Experiment 1 is being conducted on-line, and involves participants recruited through law schools in Australia, the UK, USA and Canada. We expect to complete it by the end of 2009.