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Trial By Judgmental Jury—Attractive Women Seem More Guilty

A recent study suggested that women who are blonde and beautiful are less likely to get any sympathy from a jury

smithsonian.com

If you’re planning on committing a crime, try not to be an attractive woman. A recent study suggested that women who are blonde and beautiful are less likely to get any sympathy from a jury.

The Atlantic explains:

Researchers in Spain at the University of Grenada created fictitious scenarios in which a woman was accused of killing her gender-neutral “intimate partner.” In all cases the woman’s story was that she’d been the victim of domestic violence for a long time and had finally killed the person out of self-defense. The only thing different between the narratives was the description of the accused woman.

Here’s what the study found:

The results showed that a defendant perceived as the prototype of a battered woman was judged as having less or no control of the situation; physical attractiveness increased the perception of the defendant´s responsibility in committing the crime; and an interaction between prototypicality and attractiveness in assigning credibility to the defendant´s testimony. Moreover, hostile sexism mediated the relationship between the defendant´s prototypicality and controllability. The results are discussed in terms of their implications for judicial judgement making in cases of battered women who kill their aggressors.

Medical Daily writes:

“One of the most interesting conclusions of the study was that when the woman accused of killing her abuser was attractive, participants attached greater culpability, whereas if considered ‘unattractive’, this decreases,” as explained to SINC by Antonio Herrera, Inmaculada Valor-Segura and Francisca Expósito, the authors of the study published in The European Journal of Psychology Applied to Legal Context.

So while the justice system should be blind to these sorts of things, juries are made up of people. And people have biases. So an attractive woman who claims she killed her husband in self defense—say, Susan Lucille Wright, whose defense claimed she killed her husband in self defense, but who was convicted of first degree murder—is less believable to juries than women who aren’t Bond Babes.

More from Smithsonian.com:

The Skinny on the Fatty Arbuckle Trial
Evolution on Trial

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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