Recent Submissions

  • The Voluntariness of Voluntary Consent: Consent Searches and the Psychology of Compliance

    Sommers, Roseanna; Bohns, Vanessa K.
    Consent-based searches are by far the most ubiquitous form of search undertaken by police. A key legal inquiry in these cases is whether consent was granted voluntarily. This Essay suggests that fact finders’ assessments of voluntariness are likely to be impaired by a systematic bias in social perception. Fact finders are likely to underappreciate the degree to which suspects feel pressure to comply with police officers’ requests to perform searches. In two preregistered laboratory studies, we approached a total of 209 participants (“Experiencers”) with a highly intrusive request: to unlock their password-protected smartphones and hand them over to an experimenter to search through while they waited in another room. A separate 194 participants (“Forecasters”) were brought into the lab and asked whether a reasonable person would agree to the same request if hypothetically approached by the same researcher. Both groups then reported how free they felt, or would feel, to refuse the request. Study 1 found that whereas most Forecasters believed a reasonable person would refuse the experimenter’s request, most Experiencers—100 out of 103 people—promptly unlocked their phones and handed them over. Moreover, Experiencers reported feeling significantly less free to refuse than did Forecasters contemplating the same situation hypothetically. Study 2 tested an intervention modeled after a commonly proposed reform of consent searches, in which the experimenter explicitly advises participants that they have the right to withhold consent. We found that this advisory did not significantly reduce compliance rates or make Experiencers feel more free to say no. At the same time, the gap between Experiencers and Forecasters remained significant. These findings suggest that decision makers judging the voluntariness of consent consistently underestimate the pressure to comply with intrusive requests. This is problematic because it indicates that a key justification for suspicionless consent searches—that they are voluntary—relies on an assessment that is subject to bias. The results thus provide support to critics who would like to see consent searches banned or curtailed, as they have been in several states. The results also suggest that a popular reform proposal—requiring police to advise citizens of their right to refuse consent—may have little effect. This corroborates previous observational studies that find negligible effects of Miranda warnings on confession rates among interrogees, and little change in rates of consent once police start notifying motorists of their right to refuse vehicle searches. We suggest that these warnings are ineffective because they fail to address the psychology of compliance. The reason people comply with police, we contend, is social, not informational. The social demands of police-citizen interactions persist even when people are informed of their rights. It is time to abandon the myth that notifying people of their rights makes them feel empowered to exercise those rights
  • Empire States: The Coming of Dual Federalism

    Ablavsky, Gregory
    This Article offers an alternate account of federalism’s late eighteenth-century origins. In place of scholarly and doctrinal accounts that portray federalism as a repudiation of models of unitary sovereignty, it emphasizes the federalist ideology of dual sovereignty as a form of centralization—a shift from a world of diffuse sovereignty to one where authority was increasingly imagined as concentrated in the hands of only two legitimate sovereigns. In making this claim, the Article focuses on two sequential late eighteenth-century transformations. The first concerned sovereignty. Pre-Revolutionary ideas about sovereignty reflected early modern corporatist understandings of authority as well as imperial realities of uneven jurisdiction. But the Revolution elevated a new understanding of sovereignty in which power derived from the consent of a uniform people. This conception empowered state legislatures, which, throughout the 1780s, sought to use their status under new state constitutions as the sole repositories of popular authority to subordinate competing claims to authority made by corporations, local institutions, Native nations, and separatist movements.
  • Sexual Privacy

    Keats Citron, Danielle; Macht, Sophia
    Those who wish to control, expose, and damage the identities of individuals routinely do so by invading their privacy. People are secretly recorded in bedrooms and public bathrooms and “up their skirts.” Such images are used to coerce people into sharing nude photographs and filming sex acts under the threat of public disclosure. People’s nude images are posted online without permission. Machine-learning technology is used to create digitally manipulated “deep fake” sex videos that swap people’s faces into pornography. Each of these abuses is an invasion of sexual privacy—the behaviors, expectations, and choices that manage access to and information about the human body, sex, sexuality, gender, and intimate activities. Most often, women, nonwhites, sexual minorities, and minors shoulder the abuse. Sexual privacy, this Article contends, is a distinct privacy interest that warrants recognition and protection. It serves as a cornerstone for sexual autonomy and consent. It is foundational to human dignity and intimacy, and its denial results in the subordination of marginalized communities.
  • Beyond Nudging: Debiasing Consumers Through Mixed Framing

    Godi, Matteo
    The consumer-protection literature can be divided into two camps: laissez-faire libertarianism and paternalism. Paternalism, as advanced by behavioral law and economics, calls for nudging consumers toward their utility-maximizing preference. Laissez-faire libertarianism, instead, calls for relying on rational-choice theory and the free market to allocate consumer goods. Although each camp presents the other as its diametric opponent, this Note shows that this dichotomy is overstated. Neither camp is incompatible with the other, nor infallible on its own. Through an original behavioral study, this Note reveals flaws in the fundamental assumptions of both camps: that no information can be conveyed neutrally (behavioral law and economics) and that consumer-oriented regulation diminishes autonomy (rational-choice theory). It does so by focusing on an understudied form of consumer-protection regulation: mixed framing. Legal scholars and regulators have largely ignored this phenomenon, yet it offers a more robust and actionable regulatory approach than the existing literature and one that is distinct from both paternalism and libertarianism. By examining the case study of food-safety regulations, this Note sketches the analytic and normative case for why regulators should embrace mixed framing. Using a process of debiasing through mixed framing, agencies can promulgate rules that minimize the risk of deceptive advertising tactics and maximize the provision of neutral and complete information—without running afoul of the First Amendment or falling into paternalistic restrictions on autonomy.
  • The Reverse-Entanglement Principle: Why Religious Arbitration of Federal Rights Is Unconstitutional

    Chua-Rubenfeld, Sophia; Costa, Frank J. , Jr.
    Imagine you apply to be a cashier at a supermarket. At the beginning of the interview, you sign an employment application. You don’t get the job, and your interviewer’s remarks make you suspect it’s because you are Muslim. You sue in federal court under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The supermarket moves to dismiss the suit because your employment application included an agreement to arbitrate all Title VII disputes. The court dismisses your case and compels arbitration.