A recent study by the Yale department of Psychology to determine the relationship between gender and body mass on jurors’ perceptions of guilt has proven that there actually is a correlation, sad as that may be. The study concluded that both weight and gender of a defendant may affect juror perceptions of guilt and responsibility, especially when a male juror is presented with an overweight female defendant.
The 471 adult participants of the study, both lean and overweight, were given a story describing a case of check fraud while viewing one of four images of the alleged defendant (a lean male, a lean female, and overweight male, and an overweight female), rating them on a 5 point scale of culpability. The results displayed that male participants, regardless of their own weight, leaned towards a greater overall weight bias than females, and were significantly more biased if the overweight defendant were female. There were no differences in perceptions of guilt or responsibility between the obese male and the lean male defendants.
That’s pretty messed up, and there is a whole slew of cultural influences that have likely skewed these guys’ judgment (or maybe a bunch of them are assholes, who knows) but these results make me question the fairness of a “jury of peers” if so much of a defendant's supposed guilt or innocence seems to ride on appearance.
Image via Gmarcelo.