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Lawyers With Less-Masculine Sounding Voices Are More Likely to Win in Court

Unfortunately, there’s probably little we can do to change this bias

(Photo: Heide Benser/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

We have all sorts of inherent biases when it comes to judging the other people we meet. We make assumptions about their personality based on facial features alone. We assume people with deeper voices make better leaders.

But when it comes to winning arguments in court, deeper voices may actually be a disadvantage. According to new research, lawyers with more masculine voices are actually less likely to win a court case than those with higher-pitched voices. 

To arrive at these findings, the New Scientist reports, researchers first asked 200 volunteers to listen to 60 different recordings of male lawyers making the traditional opening statement: "Mister Chief Justice, may it please the court." The volunteers rated a number of factors about each voice, including how masculine, attractive, educated, confident, trustworthy and intelligent they found it.

The researchers then compared the real-world outcomes of each of those 60 lawyers' trials to the various parameters the volunteers had evaluated. After controlling for factors like age and experience, they found that masculinity alone predicted whether or not the owner of the voice would win the case, the New Scientist writes. Surprisingly, those lawyers rated as having less masculine voices tended to come out on top. 

Masculine voices, the New Scientist continues, seems to be yet another bias—like whether or not a judge has eaten before a trial—that makes the legal system far from purely objective and fair. Unfortunately, if this is the case, the researchers point out that there's probably little we can do about it. The only action possible is to educate juries and judges about this inherent bias, and hope that they consider that message when attempting to reach a verdict. 

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