Already in the Middle Ages, when two men were accused of the same crime, the judge condemned the least physically graceful of the two. And when in doubt, the ugly were to blame .
This trend is still evident in the courts of law: Those with facial defects are often more easily convicted by popular juries . According to this study , in fact, there is a positive relationship between cosmetic surgery and criminal rehabilitation, measured by a decrease in recidivism.
Legal bias for beauty
Judges and juries are affected by all kinds of cognitive distortions, such as emotional evidence, time of day, blatant defendant remorse, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, gender, anchor effect, and contrast bias.
Also beauty is a fundamental distortion according to research based on 27 different studies . The results of three studies, for example, show a minimum increase of 119.25% and a maximum increase of 304.88% in convictions due to this bias .
Appeal had little effect on a judge’s guilty verdict, but it did too: the bias is best seen in the severity of the sentence, which tends to be higher in unattractive offenders.
For example, in this study that looked at misdemeanor convictions, judges sentenced unattractive offenders far more than attractive offenders. The fine increased gradually as attractiveness decreased .
- Misdemeanors \ u003d + 224.87%
- Moderate misdemeanors \ u003d + 304.88%
- Serious misdemeanors \ u003d + 174.78%
The results are shown below:
In wrongful death, robbery, burglary, and civil negligence cases, unattractive defendants were sentenced harsher than attractive defendants. However, for scam cases, the attractiveness bias appears to have the opposite effect .
The attractiveness bias can also affect civil cases. In another study , participants were presented with an audio-video showing a case of motor vehicle negligence. The mock jury consistently handed more guilty verdicts to the unattractive defendants .
All this happens due to the so-called halo effect: in general, attractive people are perceived as more intelligent, with more social skills, more interesting personalities, more moral, more altruistic, more likely to be successful, more desirable as managers and more competent.
Therefore, attractive people tend to have better physical health , better mental health, better dating experiences, earn more money, get higher professional positions, are selected in job interviews more often, are promoted more frequently, they receive better job evaluations and are chosen as business partners more often than unattractive people. In other words, we are facing a very deep gap: that of beauty.
This unconscious bias is even reflected [in neuroimaging studies] (Physical Attractiveness and Femininity: Helpful or Hurtful for Female Attorneys (2015) by Peggy Li). When a person comes into contact with an attractive person, certain parts of the brain are activated. Activity in the medial orbitofrontal cortex , the brain region associated with the processing of positive emotions, stimuli, and rewards, increases based on ratings of attractiveness and moral goodness. Similarly, activity in the insular cortex , a brain region associated with the processing of negative emotions and pain, increases as a result of unattractiveness and negative ratings of goodness.
Consequently, your face is what will determine your success in life, and one of the biggest sources of inequality is how your face fits into the current canons of beauty :