Coherence based reasoning and models of contract law


We report the results of an experiment examining the effect of the system of rules (law model) that govern the adjudication of difficult real-world contract law disputes by senior law students. Participants rated the importance of facts that varied in relevance to the dispute throughout the course of making a decision. Similar to the coherence shift noted by other researchers studying legal decision making, the importance of facts decreased or increased consistent with their relevance as dictated by the law model and the participant’s emerging decision. We simulated these results, and the interaction between the effects of dispute difficulty and law model on decision consensus, using a constraint satisfaction network.

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