Intuitive Jurisprudence: Early Reasoning About the Functions of Punishment
25 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2016
Date Written: December 2016
Traditional research on lay beliefs about punishment is often hampered by the complex nature of the question and its implications. We present a new intuitive jurisprudence approach that utilizes the insights of developmental psychology to shed light on the origins of punishment intuitions, along with the first empirical study to test the approach. Data from 80 child participants are presented, providing evidence that children expect punishment to serve as a specific deterrent, but finding no evidence that children expect punishment to have a general deterrent or rehabilitative effect. We also find that children understand punishment in a way that is consistent with the expressive theory of law and with expressive retributivism, and we present evidence that an understanding of the value of punishment to the social contract develops throughout childhood. Finally, we discuss the application of the intuitive jurisprudence approach to other important legal questions.
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