, Volume 15, Issue 6, pp 603-623

The impact of litigants' baby-facedness and attractiveness on adjudications in small claims courts


The effects of litigants' facial appearance on judicial decisions were investigated in 506 cases heard in small claims courts. Replicating previous laboratory studies, both baby-facedness and attractiveness exerted a significant impact on adjudications. As plaintiffs increased in attractiveness, defendants were more likely to lose the case. Also, as defendants increased in baby-facedness, they were more likely to win cases involving intentional actions and less likely to win cases involving negligent actions, although the latter simple effect was not significant. Finally, as defendants increased in facial maturity, they were required to pay larger monetary awards to baby-faced plaintiffs, albeit not to average or mature-faced plaintiffs. This pattern of decisions was interpreted as reflecting assumptions about the psychological attributes of baby-faced versus mature-faced individuals. The effects of the extralegal variables of litigant attractiveness and baby-facedness were sufficiently large to have practical as well as statistical significance, and they were independent of each other and the age of the litigants as well as of legal variables predicting adjudications.

This research was supported by NIMH grant No. BSR 5 R01 MH42684 to the first author. Thanks are extended to Philip Shapiro for his help with legal terminology, to Steven Samuels for his help in the data collecton, and to Michael Berbaum and Avron Spiro III for their statistical assistance in the data analysis.