Skip to main content

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

Abstract

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 is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Agresti, A. (1984).Analysis of ordinal categorical data. New York: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Aldrich, J. H., & Nelson, F. D. (1984).Linear probability, logit, and probit models. Beverly Hills: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Berry, D. S., & McArthur, L. Z. (1985). Some components and consequences of a babyface.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48, 312–323.

    Google Scholar 

  • Berry, D. S., & McArthur, L. Z. (1986). Perceiving character in faces: The impact of age-related craniofacial changes on social perception.Psychological Bulletin, 100, 3–18.

    Google Scholar 

  • Berry, D. S., & Zebrowitz-McArthur, L. Z. (1988). What's in a face? Facial maturity and the attribution of legal responsibility.Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 14, 23–33.

    Google Scholar 

  • Berscheid, E., & Walster, E. (1974). Physical attractiveness. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.),Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 7, pp. 158–216). New York: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bodenhausen, G. V., & Wyer, R. S., Jr. (1985). Effects of stereotypes on decision making and information-processing strategies.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48, 267–282.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bull, R., & Rumsey, N. (1988).The social psychology of facial appearance. New York: Springer-Verlag.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cohen, J., & Cohen, P. (1983).Applied multiple regression/correlation analysis for the behavioral sciences. 2nd edition. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Efran, M. G. (1974). The effect of physical appearance on the judgment of guilt, interpersonal attraction and severity of recommended punishment in a simulated jury task.Journal of Research in Personality, 8, 45–54.

    Google Scholar 

  • Frankel, M. E. (1973).Criminal sentences: Law without order. New York: Hill and Wang.

    Google Scholar 

  • Friend, R. M., & Vinson, M. (1974). Leaning over backwards: Jurors' responses to defendants' attractiveness.Journal of Communication, 24, 124–129.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gaylin, W. (1974).Partial justice. New York: Vintage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gilbert, D. T. (1989). Thinking lightly about others: Automatic components of the social inference process. In J. S. Uleman & J. A. Bargh (Eds.),Unintended thought. New York: The Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kerr, N. (1978). Beautiful and blameless: Effects of victim attractiveness and responsibility on mock jurors' verdicts.Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 4, 479–482.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kulka, R. A., & Kessler, J. B. (1978). Is justice really blind: The influence of litigant physical attractiveness on juridical judgment.Journal of Applied Psychology, 8, 366–381.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leventhal, G., & Krate, R. (1977). Physical attractiveness and severity of sentencing.Psychological Reports, 40, 315–318.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lown, C. (1977). Legal approaches to juror stereotyping by physical characteristics.Law and Human Behavior, 1, 87–100.

    Google Scholar 

  • McArthur, L. Z., & Apatow, K. (1984). Impressions of babyfaced adults.Social Cognition, 2, 315–342.

    Google Scholar 

  • McArthur, L. Z., & Berry, D. S. (1987). Cross-cultural agreement in perceptions of babyfaced adults.Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 18, 165–192.

    Google Scholar 

  • Neter, J., Wasserman, W., & Kutner, M. H. (1985).Applied linear statistical models: Regression, analysis of variance, and experimental designs (2nd ed., pp. 421–429). Homewood, IL: Irwin.

    Google Scholar 

  • Piehl, J. (1977). Integration of information in the “courts”: Influence of physical attractiveness on amount of punishment for a traffic offender.Psychological Reports, 41, 551–556.

    Google Scholar 

  • Saks, M. J. (1989). Legal policy analysis and evaluation.American Psychologist, 44, 1110–1117.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sigall, H., & Ostrove, N. (1975). Beautiful but dangerous: Effects of offender attractiveness and nature of crime on juridic judgment.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31, 410–414.

    Google Scholar 

  • Solomon, M., & Shopler, J. (1978). The relationship of physical attractiveness and punitiveness: Is the linearity assumption out of line?Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 4, 483–486.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stephan, C., & Tully, J. C. (1977). The influence of physical attractiveness of a plaintiff on the decisions of simulated jurors.The Journal of Social Psychology, 101, 149–150.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stewart, J. E. (1980). Defendant's attractiveness as a factor in the outcome of criminal trials: An observational study.Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 10, 348–361.

    Google Scholar 

  • Thornton, B. (1977). Effect of rape victim's attractiveness in a jury simulation.Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 3, 666–669.

    Google Scholar 

  • Vidmar, N. (1984). The small claims court: A reconceptualization of disputes and an empirical investigation.Law and Society Review, 18, 515–550.

    Google Scholar 

  • Villemur, N., & Hyde, J. (1983). Effects of sex of defense attorney, sex of juror and attractiveness of the victim on mock juror decision making in a rape case.Sex Roles, 9, 879–889.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zebrowitz-McArthur, L., & Montepare, J. M. (1989). Contributions of a baby face and a childlike voice to impressions of moving and talking faces.Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 13, 189–203.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zebrowitz, L. A., & Montepare, J. M. (1990). Impressions of males and females across the lifespan as a function of their baby-facedness and attractiveness. Unpublished Manuscript. Brandeis University.

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Additional information

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.

About this article

Cite this article

Zebrowitz, L.A., McDonald, S.M. The impact of litigants' baby-facedness and attractiveness on adjudications in small claims courts. Law Hum Behav 15, 603–623 (1991). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01065855

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01065855

Keywords

  • Social Psychology
  • Laboratory Study
  • Simple Effect
  • Intentional Action
  • Psychological Attribute