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Abstract

Although dialogue between psychology research and legal theory has been productive for both fields, significant gaps in communication between the fields remain. In this dissertation, I highlight an emerging direction for law and psychology research—an “intuitive jurisprudence” approach. Applying insights and methods from developmental psychology, intuitive jurisprudence research addresses to questions of adult legal psychology. Research at the intersection of developmental psychology and law can guide psychological studies of law and, reciprocally, inform our understanding of human thinking and cognitive development. By drawing clear lines from developmental science to law (and back again), research in both fields can benefit. , Throughout this dissertation, I argue that research in law and psychology can benefit from a broad methodological and theoretical base. In particular, I show the promise of an intuitive jurisprudence approach that borrows from developmental science to craft interesting questions and clear experiments, and to aid in our understanding of how lay people interact with the law. In Chapter 1, I show that children and adults consider the spirit of the law when evaluating rule breakers. In Chapter 2, I show that punishment has a powerful ability to communicate information about the state of the world; in adults, the message seems to be particularly tied to inferences of harm, but children also show many signs of complex reasoning about punishment’s place in society. Finally, in Chapter 3, I present complementary research on the role of seeking permission to avoid punishment.

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