Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Defendant's gender affects length of sentence

Date:
May 25, 2010
Source:
Expertanswer (Expertsvar in Swedish)
Summary:
A study of 300 simulated court cases shows that experienced judges, lay assessors, prosecutors, police officers, and lawyers make decisions and convict defendants differently depending on whether they are men or women and what the defendant looks like. Eyewitnesses to crimes are also affected by these factors. This is especially pronounced if there is an extended period of time separating the crime and the testimony.

A study of 300 simulated court cases shows that experienced judges, lay assessors, prosecutors, police officers, and lawyers make decisions and convict defendants differently depending on whether they are men or women and what the defendant looks like. Eyewitnesses to crimes are also affected by these factors. This is especially pronounced if there is an extended period of time separating the crime and the testimony. This is what Angela S. Ahola, Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, shows in her dissertation.

In her study of simulated short criminal cases, Angela S. Ahola shows that gender and appearance affect our judgments of personality, occupation, morals, and reliability and create a frame of reference for our behavior. Among other things, it was shown that judges and lay assessors both assessed and judged accused individuals of the same gender as themselves more severely than the opposite gender. On the other hand, prosecutors, lawyers, police officers, and law students, regardless of their own gender, evaluated male defendants more harshly than women defendants. What's more, among female members of this category, that is, those without a convicting role in the legal process, differences were seen in their evaluations depending on the looks of the accused.

"Most people have a need to get some conception of people they meet in everyday life. This is normal in everyday life. But if the same preconceptions, or so-called harmless everyday conceptions, play a role in the system of justice, this means that people are not equal before the law. In that case, we lose part of the fundamental security that a functioning rule-of-law society provides," says Angela S. Ahola.

Angela S. Ahola also demonstrates that it is not only people within the justice system that are affected. A study of eyewitnesses to a fictive crime shows that male perpetrators are judged more severely than equally violent female perpetrators. If two weeks goes by after the witnessing of the crime, gender plays an even greater role. A man will be judged even more sternly than a woman, which means that when our memory does not serve, we tend to remember more in accordance with the image, or stereotype, we have in our minds.

Photographic evidence also turned out to have a reinforcing effect in judgments. In the part of the study where psychology students were asked to play the role of lay assessors and judges, perpetrators accused of murder or arson were judged more harshly if the evidence was illustrated by crime scene photographs.

Angela S. Ahola maintains that these findings may be of importance regarding whether photographic evidence should be used in court, considering what an impact it can have.

"With these findings, the dissertation can be of practical use for our understanding of how the Swedish and perhaps other countries system of justice can be affected as regards witness testimony, assessment of evidence, and sentencing," says Angela S. Ahola.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Expertanswer (Expertsvar in Swedish). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Expertanswer (Expertsvar in Swedish). "Defendant's gender affects length of sentence." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 May 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100525090554.htm>.
Expertanswer (Expertsvar in Swedish). (2010, May 25). Defendant's gender affects length of sentence. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100525090554.htm
Expertanswer (Expertsvar in Swedish). "Defendant's gender affects length of sentence." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100525090554.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) More and more studies are showing positive benefits to playing video games, but the jury is still out on brain training programs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Spouse's Personality May Influence Your Earnings

Your Spouse's Personality May Influence Your Earnings

Newsy (Sep. 26, 2014) Research from Washington University suggest people with conscientious spouses have greater career success. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can A Blood Test Predict Psychosis Risk?

Can A Blood Test Predict Psychosis Risk?

Newsy (Sep. 26, 2014) Researchers say certain markers in the blood can predict risk of psychosis later in the life. The test can aid in early treatment for the condition. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Harpist Soothes Gorillas, Orangutans With Music

Harpist Soothes Gorillas, Orangutans With Music

AP (Sep. 25, 2014) Teri Tacheny, a harpist, has a loyal following of fans who appreciate her soothing music. Every month, gorillas, orangutans and monkeys amble down to hear her play at the Como Park Zoo in Minnesota. (Sept. 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins