How does a defendant's physical attractiveness affect jurors' decisions?
by: Alexis Scangas


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Abstract
   
Introduction
   
Method
   
Results
 Discussion
                     
Practical
Implications
   
 References
   
Appendices
   
RelevantLinks
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                       keywords: defendant, attractiveness, jury, courtroom
 
 

email:
AScangas@hotmail.com

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Abstract
     This study examined the relationship between the attractiveness of defendants, the defendant’s gender, and the type of crime on jurors’ verdicts in criminal trial cases.  The main difference between this study and previous research is that the participants in this study viewed videotaped testimony, rather than reading about a case and looking at a photograph of the defendant.  It has been shown in the literature that the defendant’s appearance can have great influence on how the jurors perceive him or her.  Attractive people are often seen in a better light then unattractive people and may often be treated with more leniencies in verdict decisions and sentencing.  However, jurors are often more harsh on attractive people when they use their looks to get something they want, as in cases of fraud. One hypothesis of this study was that the participants would give more guilty verdicts and harsher sentences to the unattractive defendants in the robbery condition.  A second hypothesis was that the participants would give more guilty verdicts and harsher sentences to the attractive defendants in the fraud condition. 
     The participants in this study read a summary of a crime and then watched a video of the defendant giving testimony.  Each participant was randomly assigned to one of 8 different groups, to account for the different conditions of gender, attractiveness of defendants and the crime that the defendant was charged with (robbery or fraud).  After viewing the testimony the participants decided whether they thought the defendant was guilty or not guilty and how confident they were of that decision.  If they found the defendant guilty, the participants provided a sentence based on a provided scale.    A significant Chi-Square analysis was found for the variables of the verdict given by the participant and the attractiveness of the defendant (p < .05).  The participants gave more guilty verdicts to the unattractive defendants than to the attractive defendants.
     It was also found through a 2 (gender of participant) X 2 (condition of crime) X 2 (attractiveness of defendant) X 2 (gender of defendant) analysis of variance on the variable of the sentence imposed, that when the defendants were attractive in the fraud case, the participants were harsher on the female than the male and when the participants were unattractive in the fraud case the participants were harsher on the male.  Through a 2 (gender of participant) X 2 (condition of crime) X 2 (attractiveness of defendant) X 2 (gender of defendant) analysis of variance on the variable of how sure the participant was of his/her decision, it was found that the participants were most sure about their decisions for the attractive female and the unattractive male. 
     These findings indicate that the participants were harsher on the unattractive defendants overall because they fit the participants’ stereotypes of what a typical criminal looks like.  The participants were harshest on the attractive female in the fraud condition because they probably believed that she fit the part of someone who would use her looks to get money from people.  The participants were most sure of their decisions about the attractive females and the unattractive males because these defendants easily fit into the participants’ heuristics of the type of behavior these people would engage in.
     The findings of this study can help in understanding why jurors behave the way they do and what characteristics of defendants influence them.  Future research can examine how these effects can be minimized in criminal trials such as looking at whether or not making jurors aware of these tendencies will minimize their reliance on stereotypes.
 
 

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Introduction
     There are many variables that affect jurors’ decisions in a court case.  It has been shown that the defendant’s appearance can have great influence on how jurors perceive him or her (Sigall & Ostrove, 1975).  Most would agree that a defendant should look put together, clean, and pleasant.  This can be done with a new suit or some make-up, but what about those aspects of appearance that cannot be changed so easily?  It is becoming apparent that a defendant’s level of physical attractiveness can have a large impact on the jurors’ decisions and judgments about them.  Are jurors more lenient with attractive people or unattractive people?  How much of an impact do people’s faces have on the decisions others make about them that could have lasting effects on their lives? 
     The current study aims to look at these issues and examine the ways in which a defendant’s physical attractiveness affects jurors’ decisions in a criminal trial.  Previous research on this question has tested these theories by having the participants look at photographs of the defendants and then making their judgment.  This study will take the research a step closer to reality by having the participants watch videotaped testimony of the defendants.  This will make the situation seem more real for the participants and they have the potential to become more connected to the defendants.  Also, the same person will be posing as the attractive and unattractive defendant in the different conditions.  This procedure, which has not been seen in the previous literature, will control for confounding variables which may be due to individual differences in the individual defendants. 
     It is an age old stereotype that “what is beautiful is good.”  Attractive people are often seen in a better light than unattractive people and may often be treated with more respect (Dion, Berscheid and Walster, 1972).  This cultural belief can have a great impact on how a person’s guilt or innocence is determined.  Jurors may base their decisions on what they believe to be the characteristics that go with the physical type of the person who is sitting in front of them in the courtroom.  The study by Dion et al. (1972) looked at this lasting belief that what is beautiful is good.  They state that the personalities of individuals may be molded by cultural stereotypes about what types of characteristics are appropriate for people of different levels of attractiveness (Dion et al., 1972).  Much of what a person thinks about him/herself comes from what others think of them and how others treat them.  This study looked at whether physically attractive people are perceived as having more socially desirable personality traits and whether they are expected to lead better lives (Dion et al., 1972). 
     The results of Dion, et al. (1972) showed that the attractive people were judged to be more socially desirable than the unattractive people.  The researchers also found that the participants predicted that the attractive people would attain more prestigious occupations, be more competent spouses, have happier marriages, have happy social and professional lives, and were predicted to have more total happiness in their lives.  The attractive individuals were expected to be more likely to find an acceptable partner and marry earlier and be less likely to remain single.  The only factor that the attractive people were not rated higher on was their ability to be a good parent.  These results show overwhelmingly that attractive people are perceived as more socially desirable and as more likely to lead happy and successful lives (Dion et al., 1972).  These stereotypes can greatly affect jurors in a criminal case.  If they believe an attractive person to be more successful and happy, then they will be less likely to believe that this person committed a crime.  However, an unattractive defendant would fit their stereotype of someone who might commit such a crime. 
     People’s beliefs about the personalities and behaviors of certain individuals based on their physical appearance can lead to many misinterpreted situations.  When a juror is sitting in a courtroom and looking at a defendant, all of his/her stereotypes about attractive or unattractive people are going through his/her head and he/she is trying to make a judgment about that person.  He/She may be thinking that since the defendant looks like a nice person, there is no way that he/she could have committed that horrific crime.  Or, he/she may see someone who is unkept, with a rough exterior and think, “That person looks like the kind of person who would do something like this.”  These situations can be very dangerous because someone’s life is in the hands of the jury and they need to make their judgments based on the facts and not on appearances.  As can be seen in the literature, appearances often seem to influence jurors in a very strong way.
     It has been shown that people have a tendency to think of attractive people as good and unattractive people as bad.  This relates to the criminal justice system in that jurors may be more likely to find an attractive defendant to be not guilty because he or she does not look like the typical criminal.  An unattractive defendant may be more likely to be found guilty because he or she fits the criminal stereotype.  Early research by Efran (1974) looked at this question of the effect of a defendant’s physical appearance on jurors’ verdict decisions and recommended punishments.  Pre-experimental questionnaires were given to the participants to ask their opinions on certain issues.  The results of these questionnaires showed that 79% of the participants believed that jurors should be influenced by the defendant’s character and past history.  Only 7% of those questioned believed that physical attractiveness should affect jurors’ decisions. 
     After filling out the questionnaires, the participants received written paragraphs about a case along with a photo of either an attractive person or an unattractive person.  The mock jurors rated the defendant’s guilt and an appropriate punishment.  The results show that the attractive defendants received ratings of less certainty of guilt and milder punishment (Efran, 1974).  This shows that the participants thought that attractiveness should not affect their decisions, and yet ultimately it did.  The current study expands on this research by having the participants view videotaped testimony rather than simply look at photographs.  Since it was not an option to actually do this research in a courtroom, the videotapes take realism of the study a step closer to what it would be like in a real-world court situation. 
      The current study look will look at cases of robbery and fraud to see if there were any differences between the two.  Sigall and Ostrove (1975) found an interaction between the defendant’s physical attractiveness and the type of crime on the recommended sentence.  They found that when a defendant was accused of a crime unrelated to appearance, such as burglary, attractive defendants received lighter sentences than the unattractive defendants (Sigall & Ostrove, 1975).  However, when the crime was one that involved the use of an attractive appearance, such as fraud, the attractive defendants were punished more harshly than the unattractive defendants (Sigall & Ostrove, 1975).  This result may be due to the fact that people do not like the idea of other people using their looks to get what they want.  This is not a quality that is respected in this society, and thus the jurors saw this type of crime as worthy of a harsher punishment.  The current study aimed at replicating these results for the robbery and fraud conditions. 
     The advantage of attractive defendants can also be seen in the work of Mazzella and Feingold (1994).  They conducted a meta-analysis using 80 studies of which 25 looked at the effects of physical attractiveness.  It was found that mock jurors were less likely to find physically attractive defendants guilty than physically unattractive defendants.  It was found that the physically attractive defendants received less punishment for crimes of robbery, rape and cheating.  However, the physically attractive defendants received the same sentence as unattractive defendants for the crime of swindling (Mazzella & Feingold, 1994).  This finding goes against one of the hypotheses of the current experiment, which states that the attractive defendant should receive a harsher sentence in the case of fraud, which is consistent with the work of Sigall and Ostrove (1975). 
     Most of the literature presented illustrates the finding that attractive defendants are found guilty less often than unattractive defendants.  The exception, however, is when the attractive people use their looks to get what they want, and are then judged more harshly.  It is obvious that a defendant’s facial features have a great influence on jurors’ opinions of them.  This is something that is not very just, but it is what happens.  People have the idea that what is beautiful is good, and thus an attractive person is seen as a “better” person.  Society puts forward the stereotype that people who are guilty of crimes are unattractive and revolting.  The data show that this is what people think, and this is what affects their judgments of defendants. 
     The current study aims to replicate the results of previous experiments and further examine the relationship between attractiveness of defendants and juror verdicts.  The type of crime committed will be a factor in this study, with one condition being about cases of robbery and the other condition about cases of fraud.  The difference between this study and most of the previous work will be that videotaped testimony will be used, rather than written descriptions and photos.  This will provide more of a real world situation, so the participants can see the defendant as they would if they were in the courtroom.  The gender of the defendant will also be taken into consideration, which is a variable that is not seen in much of the previous research.  The study by Mazzella & Feingold (1994) did look at this issue.  They found that there was no effect of defendant gender on judgments of guilty, but there was a small tendency for jurors’ to be more punitive to male defendants than to female defendants.  However, the female defendants were only treated more leniently than the male defendants in the cases of theft.  This may be due to the fact that most people expect a thief to be male and not female. 
     The first hypothesis of this study is that the participants will give more guilty verdicts and harsher sentences to the unattractive defendants in the robbery condition.  The unattractive defendants are expected to look like the type of person who the participants would believe to have committed a robbery.  The second hypothesis is that the participants will give more guilty verdicts and harsher sentences to the attractive defendants in the fraud condition.  The attractive defendants are expected to be more likely to look like the type of person who would use his/her attractiveness to get money from people.  The third hypothesis is that in cases of robbery the unattractive male will be treated the harshest.  It is expected that the participants will treat the male harsher in this condition because people expect a man to commit robbery more often than a woman. The fourth hypothesis is that in cases of fraud the attractive female will be treated most severely.  This is expected because the participants will view the attractive female as the one who could most convincingly use her looks to get people to do things for her. 
 

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Method
  Participants
     This experiment was conducted at a small liberal arts college in New England.  The participants were Introductory to Psychology students who received class credit for their participation in the study.  There were 40 participants between the ages of 18 and 22 (9 male, 31 female).  The participants signed up for one of eight groups, each of which met at different times. 

  Design
     There were eight conditions in this experiment, and each participant only took part  in one of the conditions, so it was a completely between subjects design.  The three independent variables for the experiment were the gender of the defendant, the attractiveness of the defendant and the type of crime committed.  Thus, the eight conditions were 1) male, attractive, fraud; 2) male, unattractive, fraud; 3) male attractive, robbery; 4) male, unattractive, robbery; 5) female, attractive, fraud; 6) female, unattractive, fraud; 7) female, attractive, robbery; and 8) female, unattractive, robbery. 

  Materials
     The stimulus videos for the study consisted of the same people, one male and one female, used in both the attractive and unattractive conditions.  The female was made to look attractive by having her hair look nice, applying makeup in a proper way and having her wear nice clothes and jewelry.  Her attire consisted of a dress shirt and suit jacket. The attractive female was also asked to sit up straight, be attentive to the questions, and display an overall pleasant demeanor.  The male was made to look attractive by having his hair done nicely, being clean shaven and wearing a button down shirt and tie.  He was asked to exhibit the same behaviors as the attractive female.
     The female was made to look unattractive by having her hair messy, wearing no makeup, and wearing old-looking clothing that did not match.  She was asked to slouch when giving her testimony and act uninterested and uncaring.  The male was made to look unattractive by wearing a long-haired wig and an old shirt.  He was asked to exhibit the same behaviors as the unattractive female. 
     A pretest was conducted to make sure that there was consensus on the defendants’ attractiveness or unattractiveness.  The raters (3 male, 7 female) viewed a portion of each video which showed the four different defendants.  The raters were asked to rate the attractiveness of the defendants on a scale of 1-10 (1= very unattractive, 10= very attractive) (see Appendix A).  The attractive female received an average rating of 8.6, while the unattractive female received an average rating of 2.5.  The attractive male received an average rating of 7, while the unattractive male received an average rating of 2.9. 

  Procedure
     When the participants arrived at the session room they were told that they were going to be participating in an experiment about the impressions that jurors have of defendants during the sentencing of a criminal trial.  The participants had been randomly assigned to one of the eight groups. They read the instructions for the study and then read and signed the informed consent form (see Appendix B).  The participants were asked if they had any questions. 
     Each of the eight groups of participants next read a summary of the case they were assigned to, which explained the basic facts of the alleged event (see Appendix C). The participants then watched the video of the defendant giving testimony about what happened during the event in question, which corresponded to the case they had read (see Appendix D for transcripts of the videos).  After watching the video, the participants were given the first questionnaire (see Appendix E).  They were asked to judge whether the defendant was guilty or not guilty.  They were also asked, if they found the defendant guilty, to provide a recommended sentence.  The participants were then asked to rate how sure they felt about the decision they made on a scale of 1-10 (1= very unsure, 10= very sure).  They were next asked whether or not they would add any additional monetary fines or community service.  This portion was collected and the second questionnaire was handed to the participants (see Appendix F). 
     On the second questionnaire the participants were asked a number of questions about their impressions of the defendant, which they rated on 10 point scales.  They were asked about the defendant’s likableness, attractiveness and pleasantness.  The participants were also asked to write down the crime that the defendant was charged with, to make sure that they remembered what the case was about.  This material was collected and the participants were given the third questionnaire (see Appendix G).  This was the suspicion measure which was used to determine whether or not the participants had figured out what the study was really about.  They were asked what they thought the study was about, whether they thought the study had anything to do with anything other than was described to them, and if this affected their behavior in any way.  After this was collected, the participants were given the debriefing statement and were asked to read it (see Appendix H).  Course credit slips were given to the participants before they left the session room.

 Appendices 
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Results
  Overview
     The data for this study were analyzed by looking at the dependant variables of the sentence given to the defendant and how sure the participant was of this decision. The independent variables considered were the gender of the participants, the condition of robbery or fraud, the attractiveness of the defendant and the gender of the defendant. 

  Manipulation Check
     A manipulation check was given to the participants in this study to see if the participants perceived the independent variable of attractiveness of the defendant as it was intended.  After watching the video and giving their verdicts and sentences, the participants were asked to rate the attractiveness of the defendant on a scale of one to ten, with one being very unattractive and ten being very attractive.  It was found that the average score given to the attractive female was 6.1 and the unattractive female received a score of 3.2.  The attractive male received an average score of 4.4, while the average for the unattractive male was 1.4.  It can therefore be assumed that the participants in the study did perceive the stimulus in the intended manner. 
     The participants were also asked to rate the how pleasant they believed the defendant to be on a scale of one to ten, with one being very unpleasant and ten being very pleasant.  The attractive defendants received an average rating of 6, while the unattractive defendants received an average rating of 3.9.  It can therefore be assumed that the participants found the attractive defendants to be more pleasant than the unattractive defendants. 
     The participants were asked to rate the likableness of the defendant on a scale of one to ten, with one being very unlikable and ten being very likable.  There were no significant differences found between the attractiveness of the defendants and how likable the participants found them to be.  However, the defendants who were found guilty received an average likeable rating of 4.3, while those who were found not guilty received an average likeable rating of 6.5.  Thus, those defendants whom the participants found to be more likable were seen more often as not guilty. 

  Dependent Variables
     The dependent variables in this study are the sentence given to the defendant and how sure the participant is of the sentence that he or she imposed.  The sentence given to the defendant was on a scale of zero to 12 years.  The participants also rated how sure he or she was of the decision on a scale of one to ten, with one being very unsure and ten being very sure. 

  Analysis of Variance
     A 2 (gender of participant) X 2 (condition of crime) X 2 (attractiveness of defendant) X 2 (sex of defendant) analysis of variance was performed on the dependent variable of the sentence imposed by the participant.  A significant main effect was found for the condition of the crime (F (1, 29) = 4.925, p < .05).  The means indicate that the participants gave a greater sentence in the cases of fraud than in the cases of robbery. 
     A significant 3-way interaction was also found for condition of crime, attractiveness of defendant and sex of the defendant (F (1, 27) = 6.925, p < .01).The means indicate that the when the defendants were attractive in the fraud case, the participants were harsher on the female than the male.  This is consistent with the hypothesis that the attractive female would be treated the harshest in the fraud condition.  When the participants were unattractive in the fraud case the participants were harsher on the male.  In the case of robbery, no real differences are found.  This is inconsistent with the hypothesis that in the robbery condition the unattractive male would be treated the harshest.
     A 2 (gender of participant) X 2 (condition of crime) X 2 (attractiveness of defendant) X 2 (sex of defendant) analysis of variance was performed on the dependent variable of how sure the participant was of his or her decision.  A significant interaction was found for the attractiveness of the defendant and the sex of the defendant (F (1, 27) = 4.869, p < .05).  The means show that when it came to the attractive defendants, the participants were most sure about their decisions for the attractive female.  With the unattractive defendants, the participants were most sure about their decisions for the unattractive male.  The participants were clearly most sure about their decisions on the unattractive male overall.

  Chi-Square Analysis
     A significant Chi-Square analysis was found for the variables of the verdict given by the participant and the condition of the crime (p < .01).  Almost all of the participants in the fraud conditions gave the defendant a guilty verdict, while in the robbery conditions the verdicts were more evenly spread between guilty and not guilty. 
     A significant Chi-Square analysis was found for the variables of the verdict given by the participant and the attractiveness of the defendant (p < .05).  The participants gave more guilty verdicts to the unattractive defendants than to the attractive defendants.  This was an overall expectation of the study, however, it was expected that the verdicts would depend not only on the attractiveness of the defendant, but on the type of crime committed, which was not found. 
     A Chi-Square analysis was done to compare the variables of the attractiveness of the defendant and whether or not the participants added an additional monetary fine or community service recommendation.  An effect approaching significance was found (p=.058).  The participants added additional fines/service much more often for the unattractive defendants.

  Crosstabs
     A crosstabs analysis was performed on the variables of the verdict given, the condition of crime, the attractiveness of the defendant and the gender of the defendant.  It was found that the attractive female in the fraud condition received six “guilty” verdicts and zero “not guilty” verdicts.  This is consistent with the hypothesis that the attractive female would be treated harshest in the fraud condition. When the attractive female was in the robbery condition she received zero “guilty” verdicts and five “not guilty” verdicts.  This is partly consistent with the hypothesis that the unattractive defendants would be treated harshest in the robbery condition.  It was also found that the unattractive male was found guilty by all participants in both the fraud and robbery conditions.  This is consistent with the hypothesis that the unattractive male would receive more guilty verdicts in the robbery condition, but is contrary to the belief that the unattractive male would be found not guilty in the fraud condition. 

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Discussion
     This study allows much insight to be gained because there were a number of elements that set it apart from the previous research allowing the findings to be unique.  First, videotaped testimony was used as a means of showing the case to the defendants rather than simply cases summaries and photographs.  This allowed for more realism in the study and caused the participants to be more connected to the defendants.  Second, the defendants’ gender was taken into consideration.  It is important to look at the difference between the judgments given to the defendants depending on whether they were male or female.
     The first hypothesis of this study was that the participants would give more guilty verdicts and harsher sentences to the unattractive defendants in the robbery condition. The second hypothesis was that the participants would give more guilty verdicts and harsher sentences to the attractive defendants in the fraud condition.  It was found that there were more guilty verdicts given to the unattractive defendants than to the attractive defendants overall, but significant effects were not found for the different crime conditions. 
     The third hypothesis was that in cases of robbery the unattractive males would be treated the harshest.  The results indicate that no real differences were found in the severity of punishment in the robbery condition.  The fourth hypothesis was that in cases of fraud the attractive females would be treated most severely.  The results coincide with this hypothesis.  It was found that the attractive female was found guilty by all of the participants in the fraud condition, while the same attractive female was found not guilty by all of the participants in the robbery condition. 
     The overall guilt of the unattractive defendants follows along with the literature that says that people view attractive people in a positive light and unattractive people in a negative light (Dion, et al., 1972).   Dion, et al. (1972) also showed that the attractive people were judged to be more socially desirable than the unattractive people.  The participants in the current study followed the expected stereotypes about which type of people are seen as criminals. 
     Sigall and Ostrove (1975) found that when a defendant was accused of a crime unrelated to appearance, such as burglary, attractive defendants received lighter sentences than the unattractive defendants.  However, when the crime was one that involved the use of an attractive appearance, such as fraud, the attractive defendants were punished more harshly than the unattractive defendants (Sigall & Ostrove, 1975).  While significance was not found for the different crime conditions overall, the findings for the attractive female were significant.  The data coincides with the hypothesis that the attractive female will not be found responsible for the robbery because she does not look like someone who would commit that crime.  The participants found the attractive female guilty of the fraud case because she looked to them like someone who might use her attractiveness to get money from others.  The participants probably believed that the victims in the fraud cases would be more likely to follow along with the attractive female because she looked like a nice person and like someone who could be trusted.
     The results of the current study show that the unattractive defendants received similar sentences as the attractive defendants in the cases of fraud.  The hypothesis of this study was that the attractive defendants would receive harsher sentences, which was not found.  Mazzella and Feingold (1994) also found that the physically attractive defendants received the same sentence as unattractive defendants for the crime of swindling.  The participants may have the idea that “what is beautiful is good” so engrained in their minds that they could not believe that an attractive person would commit any crime.  The jurors do not expect to see an attractive person on trial, so when they do they have a difficult time seeing this person as a criminal. 
     The data of the current study indicate that the participants were most sure of their decisions about the attractive female and the unattractive male.  The participants were sure that the attractive female was guilty of fraud and not guilty of robbery.  These verdicts fit with their ideas about the characteristics that come with being an attractive female.  People do not expect to see a female, especially and attractive female, charged with a crime. 
     However, when it came to the cases of fraud, all of the participants in that condition found the attractive female guilty.  Sigall & Ostrove (1975) found that when the crime was one that involved the use of an attractive appearance, such as fraud, the attractive defendants were punished more harshly than the unattractive defendants.  This may be due to the fact that people do not like the idea of other people using their looks to get what they want.  This quality is not respected in this society, and the jurors thought it was right to find the attractive female guilty of this crime.  The participants probably thought that stealing money from unsuspecting people was such a horrible thing to do, and the victims would be more likely to follow the directions of an attractive person.  To the participants, the attractive female looked like the prime example of the type of person who would be able to do something like that. 
     The participants were most sure of their decisions about the unattractive male out of any of the other attractiveness conditions because he is the one who most fits the stereotype of the “common criminal.”  The unattractive male was found guilty by all of the participants in all of the conditions.  The participants were sure that he seemed like a person who would be guilty of a crime.  The means indicate that the participants were surest of their decisions about the unattractive male in the robbery condition.  The unattractive male is the cultural ideal of what an intruder would look like. 
     This study is significant because it replicated results that were previously seen in the literature, while adding new elements that had not been seen in prior studies.  In all of the literature cited in this paper the researchers used either photographs of the defendants or written descriptions of the defendant’s appearance in order to convey this element of the study to the participants.  This study used videotaped testimony of the defendants, which added a new element of reality.  The participants viewed the tape as if it was real testimony that had been taken in a courtroom.  To them, this could have been a real case with real people on trial.  Information about the cases was given directly to the participants from the defendants.  This is much more of a real-world situation than having the participants read about a case and look at a photograph.  Another significant aspect of this study is that the same male was used in the attractive and unattractive condition, and the same female was used in the attractive and unattractive condition.  This minimized confounding variables that could be due to individual differences in the defendants from condition to condition.  In studies that use pictures of different people for each condition, there could be certain aspects of each person in particular that cause participants to lean in a certain direction. 
     There are many open areas for future research on this subject.  It is a very important area of research because it directly affects people’s lives.   It is imperative to try to find ways to minimize this behavior, especially in trial situations.  Defendants are supposed to get a fair trial, and this is not possible if the jurors base their decisions on the defendant’s attractiveness.  More research has to be done on figuring out how to get jurors to let go of their initial impressions and focus on the facts of the trial.  Perhaps studies could be done comparing a group of jurors who hear the testimony and see the defendant to a group who just hears the testimony without seeing the defendant.  It could be seen whether the appearance of the defendant had an effect on juror decisions.  Other studies could be done by looking at whether or not making jurors aware of the tendencies to judge people based on appearances will minimize their reliance on stereotypes.  Once they recognize that this is a problem, they may be more likely to focus on the information than on the defendant’s attractiveness.  Future studies could also consider different crimes in their research, such as murder and rape, to see if the attractiveness of the defendant plays a role in these cases.  Studies like this one can help in understanding why jurors think and act in the ways they do, and what can be done to make sure that stereotypes do not overpower actual information. 
 

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Practical Implications
     The information presented here is very important to the real world.  Physical attractiveness is probably the first thing that one notices about another person during their first encounter.  People make impressions of people based on their attractiveness, which leads to differences in how they are treated.  These impressions based on attractiveness are called cognitive heuristics.  Allison et al. (1990) explain a heuristic as a cognitive process which requires little cognitive ability and motivation. The person focuses on some cue from which a rule of thumb is evoked that facilitates the judgment process.  The development of these heuristics comes from experience.  If a person has had a certain experience with an attractive or unattractive person, he or she is likely to believe that other people who look like that person will have similar personality and behavioral characteristics. 
     This is an imperative issue not only in everyday life but in certain legal situations, such as in criminal trials.  When jurors first enter the courtroom and see the defendant for the first time, they make initial impressions about him or her.  Whether the defendant is attractive or unattractive can have a great impact on the interpretations of the jurors.  The defendant may or may not fit their ideas of what a criminal looks like.  Would they be more lenient on a very attractive and put-together man who is charged with robbery than an unattractive and sloppy-looking man?  Quite possibly.  The influence that attractiveness has on people is strong.  People have certain heuristics that they stick to because it is easier than fully processing the information and possibly changing their opinions about that certain type of person (Allison et al., 1990).  Given this, the criminal justice system should be aware of the effects that these first impressions have on jurors.  The jurors should be instructed on how to not let the appearance of the defendant influence their decision and to only focus on the information presented. 
 

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References

Allison, S., Worth, L., Campbell King, M. (1990). Group decisions as a social inference heuristic. Journal of Personality and 
     Social Psychology, 58(5), 801-811.
Dion, K., Berscheid, E., Walster, E. (1972). What is beautiful is good. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 24(3), 
     285-290.
Efran, M. (1974). The effect of physical appearance on the judgment of guilt, interpersonal attraction, and severity of 
     recommended punishment in a simulated jury task. Journal of Research in Personality, 8, 45-54.
Mazzella, R. & Feingold, A. (1994). The effects of physical attractiveness, race, socioeconomic status, and gender of defendants 
     and victims on judgments of mock jurors: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 24(15), 1315-1344.
Sigall, H. & Ostrove, N. (1975). Beautiful but dangerous: Effects of offender attractiveness and nature of the crime on judicial 
     judgment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31, 410-414.
 
 

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Appendices
 

Appendix A
Pre-test for Attractiveness of Defendants

Male #1

            1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10 
Very unattractive                                                                   very attractive 
 

Male #2

            1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10 
Very unattractive                                                                   very attractive 
 
 

Female #1

            1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10 
Very unattractive                                                                   very attractive 
 

Female #2

             1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10 
Very unattractive                                                                   very attractive 
 
 
 

Appendix B
Instructions for Participants and Informed Consent Form

Instructions for Participants

You are going to be participating in a study about juror impressions of defendants in criminal trials.  You will be playing the role of a juror and will be asked to read a short summary of a case and then view a video-tape of the defendant giving testimony about his or her role in the crime.  The defendant is sitting and the questioner is standing above the defendant out of view of the camera, so the defendant is looking up at times.  Once you view the tape, you will be asked to make a number of judgments about the individual and the case.  You will be asked to give your honest opinion and all of your answers will be kept anonymous. 
 

INFORMED CONSENT AND RIGHTS OF RESEARCH PARTICIPANTS IN THE DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY AT SAINT ANSELM COLLEGE
All psychological research at Saint Anselm College is conducted according to strict ethical principals outlined by the American Psychological Association and is in full compliance with Federal law.  The Department of Health and Human Services, for example, specifies that informed consent must be given prior to research studies, that is, “…the knowing consent of an individual or his legally authorized representative so situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice without undue inducement or any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress or other form of constraint or coercion.” 
Simply put, this means when you participate in any research study, you will be given clear explanation of the procedures involved.  You may ask for clarification either before or during the procedure, and you may terminate the procedures at any time. 
Some of the procedures used in a particular research study may include the use of media devices such as video and/or audio recording.  Any use of these devices will be fully disclosed at the conclusion of your participation.  You will be given the opportunity to revoke the use of this recording at the conclusion of your participation if you so choose.  It should be understood that any recordings made will be used for research purposes only. 
After having carefully read and considered the foregoing, I consent to participate in research activities according to the terms heretofore enumerated.  My signature indicates that I understand the instructions of this study as they have been read to or read by me. Date__________________________                                Signature___________________________   Print Name_________________________                                           Class/Student I.D. # _________________________ 
 
 

Appendix C
Cases Summaries

Case Summary 1

Mr. Carter is accused of breaking into a residence at 27 Main Street on the night of July 14, 2004.  The homeowners testified that they were woken by noise at about 11:30 PM. They came down the stairs and into the living room and saw the thief, who pointed a gun at them and told them to sit on the stairs and put their heads down or they would be killed.  A few seconds later the thief ran out the door.  The homeowners assessed the damage and found that several thousand dollars worth of jewelry and electronics were stolen. Mr. Carter was seen later that night walking in the neighborhood, and since he does not live in that neighborhood and looked suspicious, he was brought in for questioning.  The homeowners identified Mr. Carter as the person they believed that they saw in their house during a lineup at the police station. 

Case Summary 2

Mr. Carter is accused of scamming over 100,000 dollars from unsuspecting people in Atlantic City.  Mr. Carter is said to have gone up to people who were sitting by themselves and playing at slot machines in a casino.  He started a conversation with them, and once he gained this person’s trust, Mr. Carter allegedly asked the victim to go get a bite to eat and told them that he was going to let them in on a secret.  Mr. Carter allegedly told them that he worked at a casino across the street and he knew someone who could fix the machines so that they could win the million dollar jackpot.  Mr. Carter allegedly told the victim that employees were not eligible to win the prize, so if he or she helped Mr. Carter they could pull it off and split the money.  Mr. Carter allegedly brought the victims to the slot machine and told them that he needed $500 to pay the friend for his services.  The victim would allegedly hand over the money, Mr. Carter would “go look for” his friend, and never come back. 

Case Summary 3

Ms. Carter is accused of breaking into a residence at 27 Main Street on the night of July 14, 2004.  The homeowners testified that they were woken by noise at about 11:30 PM. They came down the stairs and into the living room and saw the thief, who pointed a gun at them and told them to sit on the stairs and put their heads down or they would be killed.  A few seconds later the thief ran out the door.  The homeowners assessed the damage and found that several thousand dollars worth of jewelry and electronics were stolen. Ms. Carter was seen later that night walking in the neighborhood, and since she does not live in that neighborhood and looked suspicious, she was brought in for questioning.  The homeowners identified Ms. Carter as the person they believed that they saw in their house during a lineup at the police station. 

Case Summary 4

Ms. Carter is accused of scamming over 100,000 dollars from unsuspecting people in Atlantic City.  Ms. Carter is said to have gone up to people who were sitting by themselves and playing at slot machines in a casino.  She started a conversation with them, and once she gained this person’s trust, Ms. Carter allegedly asked the victim to go get a bite to eat and told them that she was going to let them in on a secret.  Ms. Carter allegedly told them that she worked at a casino across the street and she knew someone who could fix the machines so that they could win the million dollar jackpot.  Ms. Carter allegedly told the victim that employees were not eligible to win the prize, so if he or she helped Ms. Carter they could pull it off and split the money.  Ms. Carter allegedly brought the victims to the slot machine and told them that she needed $500 to pay the friend for his services.  The victim would allegedly hand over the money, Ms. Carter would “go look for” her friend, and never come back. 
 
 

Appendix D
Transcripts of the Videotaped Testimony

ROBBERY

Prosecutor: Mr. /Ms. Carter, where were you on the night of July 14?

Mr. /Ms. Carter: I was at work until 7 PM, then I went to the store and then I went to a 
       party at my girlfriend/boyfriend’s house.

Prosecutor: What time did you get to the party?

Mr. /Ms. Carter: I’m not exactly sure, I don’t wear a watch so I easily lose track of 
       time.

Prosecutor: Do you know what time you left the party?

Mr. /Ms. Carter: I’m not sure, it went pretty late.

Prosecutor: Where do you live?

Mr. /Ms. Carter: Over on Lakewood Ave.

Prosecutor: So what were you doing on Main Street at 1 AM?

Mr. /Ms. Carter: My boyfriend/girlfriend, whose house I was at, lives a few streets 
                              over from there. We got into a fight at the party and I went for a walk. 
                               I needed to clear my head.

Prosecutor: Do you find it suspicious for someone to be walking the streets at 1 o’clock 
                     in the morning in a neighborhood that is not their own?

Mr. /Ms. Carter: No I don’t think so.  I see people out late all of the time.

Prosecutor: So you make a habit of being out late?

Mr./Ms. Carter: No, not necessarily.

Prosecutor: Did you have anything to do with the robbery at 27 Main Street that night?

Mr. /Ms. Carter: No I did not.  Absolutely not.

Prosecutor: Then how do you explain being identified by the homeowners?
 

Mr. /Ms. Carter: They probably recognized me at the police station because my 
boyfriend/girlfriend lives near them.  That doesn’t mean that it was me in their 
house.  They were woken up in the middle of the night.  They could have easily been mistaken.  There’s no proof.
 

FRAUD

Prosecutor: Mr. /Ms. Carter, the police took you in on suspicion of fraud.  How do you feel about these charges?

Mr. /Ms. Carter: The charges are ridiculous. I don’t even know why I am here.

Prosecutor: Why is that?

Mr. /Ms. Carter: Because I’ve never taken money from anybody.  I can’t believe that 
                   they think I had something to do with this.

Prosecutor: Do you work in the Starlight Casino?

Mr. /Ms. Carter: Yes I do.

Prosecutor: How long have you worked there?

Mr. /Ms. Carter: For three years.

Prosecutor: Do you find it easy to make friends?

Mr. /Ms. Carter: Yes, I’ve always been a people person.

Prosecutor: Why do you think people are drawn to you?

Mr. /Ms. Carter: I think I’m a pretty nice person.  I’m outgoing and friendly.  I love my 
                              job in the casino because I get to work with and meet so many 
                             different types of people. 

Prosecutor: Have you ever used a friendship to your own advantage, like to get 
                     something out of someone?

Mr. /Ms. Carter: No, never.  I’m an honest guy/girl. 

Prosecutor: Have you ever tried to take advantage of anyone in the casino?

Mr. /Ms. Carter: No, never.

Prosecutor: We have talked to a number of people who believe that you either took 
                      money from them or they saw you take money from someone else.  How do 
                      you explain this?

Mr. /Ms. Carter: Thousands of people go through the casino everyday.  There is a very 
good chance that they could have mistaken me for someone else.   I have never stolen money from anyone.  Ask anyone who knows me. I’m not that kind of guy/girl.
 
 

Appendix E
Questionnaire #1

Experimental Questionnaire

Based on the testimony that you have just viewed, please make your best judgment about the defendant in question:
 

I find the defendant:      Guilty         Not Guilty
 

If guilty, I impose a sentence of (please circle one): 
0-1 yr 
1-2 yrs 
3-4 yrs 
5-6 yrs 
7-8 yrs 
9-10 yrs 
10-11 yrs 
11-12 yrs

 How sure are you of the decision you made?

       1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10 
Very unsure                                                                       very sure 
 

In addition to, or instead of a jail sentence, would you add any additional penalties such as a monetary fine or community service?  If yes, please identify the penalty and explain:
 
 

Appendix F
Questionnaire #2

Post-Experimental Questionnaire
 

I would like to use this opportunity to find out some of your general impressions of the defendant.  Please circle the number that best corresponds with your opinion.
 
 

How likable did you find the defendant?

          1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10 
Very unlikable                                                                       very likable 
 
 
 

How attractive did you find the defendant?

           1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10 
Very unattractive                                                                   very attractive 
 
 
 

How pleasant did you find the defendant’s overall demeanor? 

          1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10 
Very unpleasant                                                                   very pleasant 
 
 
 

What was the crime that the defendant was charged with?
 
 
 

Appendix G
Questionnaire #3

Participant Impressions of the Study

What did you think this study was about?
 

Did the study have anything to do with anything other than what was described to you? If yes, what?
 

Did this affect your behavior in any way? If yes, how?
 
 

Appendix H
Debriefing Statement

Feedback to Participants

    Thank you for participating in my study. This study is about how jurors are influenced by a defendant’s physical attractiveness when judging innocence or guilt. The literature shows that people are usually more lenient with attractive people than unattractive people.  This may be because our society maintains the idea that what is beautiful is good.  However, jurors are often more harsh on attractive people when they use their looks to get something they want, which is also a part of my study. The information you provided will help to further my discovery of whether or not these ideas are true.  It is common for people to make impressions based on an individual’s appearance, and you should not feel that there is anything wrong with responding in the way you did.  There are no right or wrong answers here and all of your information will be strictly anonymous. 
    Please refrain from discussing this study with anyone, as it is an ongoing study and any information that may be released may contaminate the results. If you have any further questions about this experiment or you would like to see the results of this study please contact me, Alexis Scangas, at PO Box 2165 or Professor Ossoff in the psychology department.  Again, I thank you for all of your help.
 

 

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Relevant Links
Saint Anselm College
American Psychological Association
National Criminal Justice Reference Service