Dr Jennifer Drobac
As a U.S. law professor, I examine the neuroscience of decision making, particularly as part of legal consent. My research challenges the legal default of unquestioned human capacity for consent. It posits that legal capacity for consent is not an “on/off” switch. It questions whether capacity—our rough filter for the ability to consent—flips on at some arbitrary time, such as “the age of consent,” and off again with early onset dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Recent studies in the fields of neuroscience, psychology, and sociology, suggest that rational, adult actors may not always function rationally. Factors such as financial difficulties, aging, brain deterioration, grief, and illness stress decision-making processes. The science of human decision making should inform the law’s reliance on consent. By highlighting that most negotiating parties, in a given moment or context, may possess less than legally presumed capacity to consent, I hope to emphasize the need for legal reform.
analysis of scientific reports
Associated News Items
Drobac JA (2016), “Sexual Exploitation of Teenagers: Adolescent Development, Discrimination, and Consent Law” Book (Univ. of Chicago Press)
Drobac JA, Goodenough OR (2015), “Exposing the Myth of Consent: Strictures from Neuroscience, Economics, and Relational Contracting” Ind. Health L. Rev. 12: 471-531
Drobac JA, Hulvershorn LA (2014), “The Neurobiology of Decision-Making in High Risk Youth & The Law of Consent to Sex” New Crim. L. Rev 17: 502-551
Drobac JA (2013), “Wake Up and Smell the Starbucks Coffee: How Doe v. Starbucks Confirms the End of the “Age of Consent” in California and Perhaps Beyond” B.C. J.L. & Soc. Just. 13: 1-43
Drobac JA (2011), “A Bee Line in the Wrong Direction: Science, Teenagers, and the Sting to "The Age of Consent"” J.L. & Pol’y 20: 63-116
Drobac JA (2006), ““Developing Capacity”: Adolescent “Consent” at the Workplace, at Law, and in the Sciences of the Mind” U.C. Davis J. Juvenile L. & Pol’y 10: 1-68