Psychological Explanations of How Gender Relates to Perceptions and Outcomes at Trial
Although the American legal system does not statutorily permit differential civil and criminal trial outcomes on the basis of gender, empirical observations of the effects of gender on trial outcomes are ample yet mixed. For several decades, legal actors have attempted to diminish the effects of gender in the courtroom through Supreme Court rulings, presidential policies, legislation, and modification of language in legal documents. Social scientific research suggests that implicit and explicit processes likely affect how the gender of legal actors (e.g., defendants, victims) relates to trial outcomes. This chapter first discusses a variety of laws and policies designed to curtail gender bias generally (e.g., in employment settings) and in the trial process specifically. Next, the chapter synthesizes empirical research that demonstrates the relationship between gender and trial process and outcomes. This synthesis of the psychological research includes specific emphasis on the gender of five primary legal actors: victims, defendants, attorneys, experts, and legal decision-makers. Then, the chapter offers psychological mechanisms that explain why the gender of legal actors (e.g., jurors, witnesses) might relate to trial outcomes. We include overarching theoretical psychological explanations for the observed effects of gender using the symbolic interaction framework and the influence of gender roles and stereotypes. Finally, we identify deficits in the existing research on the relationship between gender and the trial process, suggesting topics for future empirical examination.
KeywordsGender Defendants Victims Attorneys Expert witnesses Jurors Judges
We would like to thank Brielle Jackson for their help in preparing this chapter.
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