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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Physical Attractiveness in the Legal System

Rod Hollier
The Law Project

When I started looking into this subject, I predicted a person’s physical attractiveness would only have minor advantages. I was wrong.

In fact, I was so wrong, that in one study, the effects of physical attractiveness on judges were so influential, they fined unattractive criminals 304.88% higher than attractive criminals.

Surprising, I know.

Before we proceed, I want to address a few concerns of mine. Firstly, the information that you will read may cause some readers to feel unsettled. This is not my intention. Yes, it is disheartening. But the purpose of this article is to inform lawyers and other decision makers so that they can use the attractiveness bias to their advantage or to counter it.

A second concern of mine is that I don’t want to over-emphasise the attractiveness bias. Judges and jurors are affected by all kinds of cognitive distortions, such as emotive evidence, time of day, remorse of the defendant, socioeconomic status, race, gender, anchoring effect, and the contrast bias.

In the first section of this article, I give a ‘straight-to-the-point’ summary of the research conducted by 27 studies. Next, I enter into greater depth on the attractiveness bias and its effects on judges, jurors, and lawyers. Lastly, I provide research on the attractiveness bias in everyday life. Arguably, the last section is the most interesting.