The effects of defendant and juror attractiveness on simulated courtroom trial decisions

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Bruce W. Darby
Devon Jeffers
Cite this article:  Darby, B., & Jeffers, D. (1988). The effects of defendant and juror attractiveness on simulated courtroom trial decisions. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 16(1), 39-50.


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We investigated the interactive effects of the physical attractiveness of hypothetical defendants and mock jurors on judicial decisions. Seventy-eight college students rated their own physical attractiveness and then evaluated attractive, moderately attractive, and unattractive defendants as to the defendants’ guilt or innocence, responsibility for the charges being brought, trustworthiness, happiness, honesty, intelligence, and likeability as well as recommended punishment for those convicted. As expected, more as opposed to less attractive defendants were convicted less, punished less severely, rated as less responsible for the charges being brought, and considered more happy, likeable, and trustworthy. Attractive participants were more likely to convict than acquit unattractive defendants, while less attractive participants did not differentially convict or acquit defendants across all levels of defendant physical attractiveness. Both attractive and less attractive participants recommended the least severe punishment for attractive defend-ants; however, attractive participants were harshest on unattractive defendants, while unattractive participants were harshest on moderately attractive defendants. The results are discussed in terms of leniency effects when judging others with similar attributes.


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