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Crime The Courts Idle Science

Justice Not As Blind As Previously Thought 256

NotSoHeavyD3 writes "I doubt this is much of a surprise but apparently Cornell University did a study that seems to show you're more likely to get convicted if you're ugly. From the article: 'According to a Cornell University study, unattractive defendants are 22 percent more likely to be convicted than good-looking ones. And the unattractive also get slapped with harsher sentences — an average of 22 months longer in prison.'"
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Justice Not As Blind As Previously Thought

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  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @03:06PM (#32256404)
    Those will take a real toll on your looks. They also have a nasty tendency to turn people into thieves, prostitutes, and murderers. Also, being white trash will tend to age you about ten years, and it usually also comes with at least two or three DUI-on-an-ATV/public-intoxication/starting-a-fight-down-at-the-bar arrests.
    • by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @03:11PM (#32256486) Journal


      I mean, he may get an extra 6 months because of that big scar on his cheek, but that big scar on his cheek shows that he got into a knife fight at some point. Perhaps keeping individuals prone to that kind of behavior off the streets for a few extra months isn't exactly a bad thing.

    • by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @03:28PM (#32256744) Homepage

      According to TFA, the researchers used theoretical juries of undergrads, and merely swapped the photo associated with them. I haven't seen the photos myself, but researchers usually use a distribution of attractive or unattractive photos that don't include "disfigured in a bar fight" and "barely cognizant heroin addict."

      Of course, being a theoretical study on paper does mean that real-world influences could be much lower... or higher. For example, any signs of remorse in the courtroom, performance on the stand, etc might be much more significant to the overall judgement process. Or maybe the juries take real courtroom activity more seriously. Or maybe undergrads all just need to get laid.

      • According to TFA, the researchers used theoretical juries of undergrads, and merely swapped the photo associated with them.

        No, it doesn't say that. It says,

        They were then given case studies of defendants, complete with a photograph and profile, were read jury instructions and listened to the cases' closing arguments.

        It never says if the photograph was real or fictitious. However, using the same case study with different pictures would point strongly toward this being a cause and not just a correlation.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        In reality beautiful people are more likely to have more money, which means they can probably afford better lawyers too. Humans (and not just humans) are suckers for beauty, such is life.

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by kpainter ( 901021 )

        According to TFA, the researchers used theoretical juries of undergrads, and merely swapped the photo associated with them.

        I hear the picture they used of Hillary Clinton got life.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by gclef ( 96311 )

      The result isn't actually that surprising. A similar result was mentioned in the book Blink [] that was popular a while ago. The study mentioned in Blink showed that juries were very sensitive to the race of the accused, and that black defendants had a much higher conviction rate, even with very similar evidence.

      For a beautiful example of how it works subconsciously, have a look at the Implicit Association Tests [] from Harvard.

      • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @06:40PM (#32258940) Journal
        Ugh, what a horrible test. It's loaded with an astonishing amount of implicit cultural bias. It asked me to put a load of pictures into either 'white american' or 'black american' categories. Since I'm not American, the 'American' part of those labels means very little to me, so I was just categorising the people based on skin colour. When you come to dark-skinned hispanics, where should you put them? I picked black, because that's how most of the people of that ethnicity of my acquaintance (who are not Americans of any kind) describe themselves. Apparently this is wrong, but the test is clearly designed by people with no understanding of psychology because it told me that this was wrong, which meant that I got it 'right' the next time. Not because it was measuring how I perceive these people (I perceive them as Spanish or Portuguese with some Moorish ancestry, not as Black or White Americans), but because - over the course of the test - I had learned that the people designing the test perceived them as 'White Americans'. I stopped doing the test at that point. It is so far away from being scientific that it's not even funny.
  • yeah, well (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @03:07PM (#32256416)
    Maybe they should have thought about that BEFORE being ugly...
    • I was just born ugly ... I guess I'd better walk the "straight and narrow" or get some plastic surgery done.
  • by notommy ( 1793412 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @03:09PM (#32256446)

    who are in jail and are wondering why their prison term was longer than the average.

  • And this is why... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @03:10PM (#32256452) Journal
    The statues of justice are always blindfolded, not blind...

    On the plus side, we could spend some time discussing phrenological theories of the "physiognomy of the criminal type" which are always amusing.
  • I'm doomed. (Score:5, Funny)

    by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @03:10PM (#32256474) Journal


  • by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @03:11PM (#32256490) Journal

    Any time a study comes out, twelvity million Slashdotters start chanting "Correlation!=Causation". None actually read the article. In fact, most have their rant typed out long before the story hits slashdot, and simply cut and paste into the comment box.

    So, in the interest of keeping up this fine tradition, I offer the following:

    1) Ugly people are more likely to actually commit the crime. Makes sense. Pretty people are less likely to need to do a crime as they are more likely to get good employement.
    2) Committing a crime MAKES you ugly. Far fetched? Maybe. But I am sure those stupid researchers who only get by on grant money never thought of such a thing.

    Clearly, I a faceless Slashdotter am more capable of analyzing the situation without actually reading the article, or giving it more than 20 seconds of thought.

    Can the rest of my Slashdot bretheren help support my contentions?

    • Well...

      The study consisted of 169 Cornell psychology undergraduates, who were classified as either rational or emotional decision-makers through an online survey. They were then given case studies of defendants, complete with a photograph and profile, were read jury instructions and listened to the cases' closing arguments.

      In serious cases with strong evidence, there was little difference in the conviction rate between attractive and unattractive defendants. But in more minor cases, with ambiguous evidence, jurors were more biased toward the good-looking.

      So the study was of 169 people who were classified by taking an online survey. They were then given mock juries.

      Interesting point: what is attractive and unattractive? Were the mock-jury members ASKED if the defendant was unattractive? ...

      Perhaps there is a correlation of attractive/unattractive-ness with other traits which were what the jury members were *actually* basing their decision on?

      Seems to me that anytime you start saying people decided something because of X, you are stepping into a very

      • by vlm ( 69642 )

        The study consisted of 169 Cornell psychology undergraduates

        Ah well there's the relevancy problem. "Everyone knows" the lawyers on both sides like juries full of gullible / uneducated people without pre-existing biases, so they always try to dismiss folks "in the business" like lawyers, cops, also intelligent folks like engineers, doctors, scientists. The odds that a psychologist makes it to a jury seem extraordinarily low, unless in a statistical anomaly the rest of the jury is absolutely packed with supremacists and retired cops so they ran out of quota of peopl

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by DrEldarion ( 114072 )

      Committing a crime MAKES you ugly.

      Anyone who has ever played Fable knows this is true.

    • by dcollins ( 135727 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @03:33PM (#32256848) Homepage

      Agreed. I propose that Slashdot start scanning for people tagging stories with "correlation!=causation", and automatically insert "I'm a fucking moron!" into their signature line. Or the like.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by hedwards ( 940851 )
        But since correlation isn't causation you'd have no idea as to whether or not the commenter is a "fucking moron."
        • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @05:21PM (#32258198) Homepage Journal

          But since correlation isn't causation you'd have no idea as to whether or not the commenter is a "fucking moron."

          If someone tags a story with "correlation!=causation" (c!=c) or attempts to use that phrase as an attack on the story's premise, that is prima facie evidence that the person in question is, indeed, a fucking moron (FM). Not all FMs parrot c!=c (PCC) at every opportunity, of course, but only FMs do so. The correlation between FM-ness and c!=c parroting is therefore quite large, certainly large enough to be significant.

          In the presence of a significant correlation between X and Y, there are three causal possibilities: either X causes Y, Y causes X, or there exists a third factor, Z, which causes both X and Y. Let X = PCC and Y = FM, and break down the possibilities:

          X ==> Y: PCC makes you an FM. This seems unlikely. We could test it, of course, but there's no causal mechanism.

          Z ==> X,Y: certainly possible, but the universe of possible Zs is pretty large. No need to complicate the hypothesis -- Occam's Razor and all that -- when ...

          Y ==> X: FMs are incapable of understanding statistics, since they're, well, FMs. And PCC depends on a profound lack of understanding of statistics. Ta-da! There's your causal mechanism and your significant correlation.

          The remainder of the problem is left as an exercise for the reader. If you have trouble, there's a hint in my .sig, or see the TA during office hours.

    • You just happen to love Microsoft. Why do you hate freedom?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MozeeToby ( 1163751 )

      Hilarious. You deliver a mild rant about people spouting off "correlation!=causation" without so much as reading the article to see if the researches took that into account, all the while your post makes it obvious that you yourself didn't so much as read the article and yet your get modded insightful and informative. Sometimes I think the mods don't even try.

      The researchers didn't use real court room data, they created mock criminals, attaching different pictures to the same information about the case an

    • If we just posted an article on world hunger and/or world peace on slashdot, the problems would have been solved already 5 or so years ago. I trust everybody here with my life because I know everybody here reads the articles for me.
    • Any time a study comes out, twelvity million Slashdotters start chanting "Correlation!=Causation". None actually read the article.

      Correlation!=Causation: they may have been chanting that even if they DID read the article. Or if there was no study talking about causations or correlations. In fact, I'm pretty sure some of them just wander the streets mumbling "correlation is not causation" when they're not online. I mean, I do.

  • by happy_place ( 632005 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @03:12PM (#32256496) Homepage
    Any movie or TeeVee show has shown this for years... there is a caveat, however...They can be good-looking and convicted if theyhave menacing music to accompany them...
    • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *
      If real life were like a police procedural, the first and most obvious suspect would always be a red herring anyway.
    • Actually, I wonder how much the fact that movies and TV shows tend to portray those who commit crimes as being ulgy has to do with the results of this study.
      • by sznupi ( 719324 )

        You mean how much the fact(?) that people expect from movies and TV shows to portray those who commit crimes as being ulgy?

  • Next they'll be saying that poor people and minorities end up in jail more often.
    And a lot of the times people are going BACK to jail, and it's probably hard to stay good-looking long in jail.
    (Although eye of the beholder etc.)

    • Well, that's how they coded it.

      unattractive = Minorities and poor whitefolk
      good-looking = rich white folk

      /I keed //DNRTFA
  • But wait... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kirin Fenrir ( 1001780 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @03:12PM (#32256506)
    If this is true, how'd Micheal Jackson keep getting off?!
  • by Improv ( 2467 ) <> on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @03:13PM (#32256534) Homepage Journal

    From an Ev Psych perspective, ugliness is a possible marker of some kind of degeneracy, and our negative reactions to the ugly are likely a gene-regulatory mechanism (conformity's hand - that thing in side of us that makes us think "FREAK" when we see people who can't walk correctly, who are missing limbs or deformed, etc - the whole attraction of "freak shows" in circuses was to engage this, although in modern times we aim for a more compassionate society and try not to engage or mention this anymore).

    Judges, police, the boss considering promoting someone, they're all human, and unless they use some objective metrics as their primary means for choice, attractiveness will accidentally factor in.

    • by Kozz ( 7764 )

      From an Ev Psych perspective, ugliness is a possible marker of some kind of degeneracy,..

      There's pictures spread all over the web of a guy who I believe had conviction(s?) for sexual assault. If you know the photos I'm talking about, they don't look like a real person. He appears to be very, very short, with an oversized head, crooked teeth and a completely bashed-in-looking face. Doesn't actually look real. Someone surely knows what I'm talking about and can post links.

  • ...unless they controlled for likelihood of actual guilt (I don't know how) and severity of crimes brought to trial, all this tells is that justice may not be blind OR ugly people may be pre-disposed to criminal behavior and to commit more serious crimes.
  • This fits in with my 'I'm too pretty to go to prison!' plea.
  • Do I need to fill this in?

  • I believe it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by canajin56 ( 660655 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @03:44PM (#32257022)

    A woman at a grocery store near here was in charge of counting money from the tills and putting it in the safe. Over the course of a year she managed to steal over $100,000 in cash by doctoring the electronic sales records. The managers noticed, but she was too hot, so they routinely fired+blackballed the ugliest cashiers for stealing. Well, she finally got caught. The judge gave her a stern warning, no jail time, no probation. And she didn't have to pay back, she got to keep the $100,000. Judge even called her a wonderful person, said she has no chance of reoffending, and has a bright future as a university student and it would be wrong of him to get in the way of her! Left implied is that she gives good head, I guess.

    I wish I was hot enough to steal 100 Gs and get to KEEP IT ALL with no other punishment.

    • Are there any news stories or other citations for that case?
    • by guruevi ( 827432 )

      I don't know the case but it might be that because the managers let her do the stealing (for whatever reason, maybe she was blackmailing, sharing the wealth, romantically involved or she had family ties), all the previous occurrences that were documented but not acted upon were dismissed. If you let somebody steal from you, you can't really expect them to be punished whenever it suits you - you actually have to document the occurrence, fire the person, notify the authorities and sue for damages. If you docu

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Back in the mid 90s, I worked for one of those slick, cool, handsome and nattily dressed business owners who embezzled over four million dollars from several businesses including the one I was employed at.

      It only came to light when his pyramid investment schemes crashed and our paychecks bounced.

      He's one of the fortunate ones - he's only doing about twenty years in a fedpen. I say fortunate because there were many people on his payroll who would gladly have terminated

  • I would like to see a graph with ugly vs money on it... I bet you could be hella fugly with a stack of cash and beat the hell out of the sentences of the broke beautys.
  • Ugly is as Ugly does.
  • by codegen ( 103601 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @04:00PM (#32257230) Journal
    The study let the fake jury read the case history and listen to taped closing arguments. However in a real trial, the lawyers are up in front and interacting. I wonder how much the lawyers physical attractiveness works into the equation. After all the defendant just sits at the table (unless he/whe takes the stand).
  • Sometimes [] justice really is blind.

  • Did they start the study of a "Hot or Not" prisoner website?

    Like the say in the auto sales game... "Theres an ass for every seat"

    I think that applies here too. Some people are turned on by strangely shaped faces, legs, asses... midgets (where are my old videos?) ....

    This is way too subjective to be taken seriously...

  • I read this /. post shortly after reading a story on about young children and race. []

    Is it any surprise that white children pick the darker skinned and declare them to be "ugly"? And in light of earlier comments in this thread: correlation or causation?

  • by Sentrion ( 964745 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @05:35PM (#32258332)

    Maybe because people are cruel to ugly people so they lash back at society more often. People choose to surround themselves with good looking people, so ugly people miss out on opportunities, friendships, jobs, advancement, and other facets of social life. Not feeling good about life makes them not want to smile, which just makes them uglier.

    When was the last time to saw an ugly CEO, politician, salesperson, or "employee of the month"? Ugly people could be famous musicians, but that was before MTV. And without success people sometimes resort to crime.

    So there is probably a greater proportion of guilty ugly people, but the innocent ugly definitely have a tougher battle than the good looking ones. The charming crooks tend to evade suspicion from the beginning, so more "ugly" suspects will get picked up off the street, possibly just because the forensic artist lacks talent and all his sketches look ugly. Crime victims tend to describe their assailants as "ugly", because, let's face it, even good-looking people look ugly when they're trying to strangle you.

Honesty pays, but it doesn't seem to pay enough to suit some people. -- F.M. Hubbard