A new study by Cornell University researchers has found that being attractive has its advantages, even in a court of law.
The research showed that unattractive defendants are 22 percent more likely to be convicted, and tend to get hit with longer, harsher sentences - with an average of 22 months longer in prison recommended by the study's participants.
The study identified two kinds of potential jurors: Those who reason emotionally and give harsher verdicts to unattractive defendants, and those who reason rationally and focus less on defendants' looks. One processes information based on facts, analysis and logic.
The other reasons emotionally and may consider such legally irrelevant factors as a defendant's appearance, race, gender and class, and report that the less-attractive defendant appeared more like the "type of person" who would commit a crime.
"Our hypothesis going in was that jurors inclined to process information in a more emotional/intuitive manner would be more prone to make reasoning errors when rendering verdicts and recommending sentences. The results bore out our hypothesis on all measures," says lead author Justin Gunnell, a Cornell Law School graduate who began working on the study as a Cornell undergraduate student working with co-author Stephen Ceci, professor of developmental psychology.
The study will be published in an upcoming issue of the peer-reviewed Behavioral Sciences and the Law.