Criminal Stereotypes in the Courtroom: Facial Tattoos Affect Guilt and Punishment Differently

Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, Vol. 19, No. 4, 2013

Posted: 7 Feb 2014

Date Written: September 19, 2013

Abstract

Three studies using between-subjects designs examined the effect of facial tattoos on two stages of a courtroom trial. The presence of a facial tattoo affected judgments of guilt, but it did not lead to higher punishment ratings. This was the case for different types of crime varying in offense seriousness and for faces varying in perceived trustworthiness. The effect on guilt was fully mediated by the perceived criminal appearance of the tattooed defendant. These findings are the first that systematically address the question whether facial tattoos can bias legal outcomes. They further suggest that the psychological mechanisms by which an activated criminal stereotype influences legal judgments can differ for two stages of a trial. Policy implications are discussed.

Keywords: stereotypes, punishment, tattoos, trustworthiness, guilt

Suggested Citation

Funk, Friederike and Todorov, Alexander, Criminal Stereotypes in the Courtroom: Facial Tattoos Affect Guilt and Punishment Differently (September 19, 2013). Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, Vol. 19, No. 4, 2013. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2391251

Friederike Funk (Contact Author)

Princeton University ( email )

Department of Psychology
Princeton, NJ 08540
United States

Alexander Todorov

Princeton University ( email )

Green Hall
Princeton, NJ 08540
United States

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