Abstract Principles and Concrete Cases in Intuitive Lawmaking

  • Ira Mark Ellman
  • Sanford L. Braver
  • Robert J. MacCoun
Original Article


Citizens awaiting jury service were asked a series of items, in Likert format, to determine their endorsement of various statements about principles to use in setting child support amounts. These twenty items were derived from extant child support systems, from past literature and from Ellman and Ellman’s (2008) Theory of Child Support. The twenty items were found to coalesce into four factors (principles). There were pervasive gender differences in respondent’s endorsement of the principles. More importantly, three of these four principles were systematically reflected, in very rational (if complex) ways, in the respondents’ resolution of the individual child support cases they were asked to decide. Differences among respondents in their endorsement of these three principles accounted for differences in their patterns of child support judgments. It is suggested that the pattern of coherent arbitrariness (Ariely et al., Q J Econ 118(1):73–105, 2003) in those support judgments, noted in an earlier study (Ellman, Braver, & MacCoun, 2009) is thus partially explained, in that the seeming arbitrariness of respondents’ initial support judgments reflect in part their differing views about the basic principles that should decide the cases.


Child support  Decision-making Judgments Family law Moral intuition 

Copyright information

© American Psychology-Law Society/Division 41 of the American Psychological Association 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ira Mark Ellman
    • 1
  • Sanford L. Braver
    • 2
  • Robert J. MacCoun
    • 3
  1. 1.Sandra Day O’Connor College of LawArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  3. 3.Schools of Public Policy and LawUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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