Undergraduate Psychology Research Methods Journal


A primary problem with the current criminal justice system in the United States is that it almost solely relies on a jury to determine whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty of committing a crime. While this system has been in place for many years, it is flawed because it ignores the fact that people tend to make judgments based on extralegal factors, or variables that are not related to a case, which may lead them to have implicit biases toward or against an alleged offender. Previous findings indicate that extralegal factors that impact juries include gender, race and ethnicity, facial maturity, dress, perceived socioeconomic status, attractiveness, emotional engagement, and jurors’ views of their own attractiveness. The present study evaluates whether the presence of visual information (i.e. what a juror can visually observe about a defendant) affects the verdict of a trial. Participants were divided into three groups who heard a fictional crime scenario about an armed robbery incident. Along with the scenario, participants in the first group saw a picture of an attractive offender, participants in the second group saw a picture of an unattractive offender, and participants in the third group did not see a picture of an offender at all. It was hypothesized that participants who saw the attractive offender would find him guilty less often and recommend less harsh sentences when convicted, but the findings were not significant for either of these hypotheses.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.

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