Consent 102

Integrating Knowledge with Experience

  • Alexander Pavez MacEwan University


There have been growing efforts on college and university campuses to increase awareness about sexual violence. Often those initiatives focus on defining affirmative consent within the broader context of socio-cultural power dynamics. Cognitive psychology can add a complementary perspective through understanding biases that might affect perception of consent and the processes by which individuals reason about consent. Research in medical education has demonstrated that reliance on both explicit rules and as well as similar prior experiences produces the best diagnostic judgement (Eva, 2004). Like medical diagnosis, consent requires one to make decisions about individual experiences or cases that are multidimensional, contextually diverse and interpretive in nature. Consequently, practices designed for building expert diagnosticians may have value in teaching students about consent. Our program includes an analytical training component that focuses on the explicit dimensions of Affirmative Consent and the cognitive biases likely to influence perceptions of consent, as illustrated through case examples. The program includes a second component where some students have received the training needed for non-analytic reasoning, through a considerable exposure to a range of test cases with feedback on their decisions. After their respective training, all participants will be asked to provide judgments of consent for a series of test cases. We expect both groups that received either analytical or non-analytical training will be more accurate in their judgments of consent and will demonstrate more sophisticated reasoning for their decisions, than those in our control group.


Faculty Mentor: Aimee Skye

Department: Psychology (Honours)