Perceived Masculinity Predicts U.S. Supreme Court Outcomes
* Featured in ABA Journal, New Scientist, Smithsonian Magazine, FindLaw, and Daily Mail, 2016
* PLoS-ONE, 11(10), e0164324, 2016
20 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2016 Last revised: 28 May 2017
Date Written: June 22, 2016
Previous studies suggest a significant role of language in the court room, yet none has identified a definitive correlation between vocal characteristics and court outcomes. This paper demonstrates that voice-based snap judgments based solely on the introductory sentences of lawyers arguing in front of the Supreme Court of the United States predict outcomes in the Court. In this study, participants rated the opening statement of male advocates arguing before the Supreme Court between 1998 and 2012 in terms of masculinity, attractiveness, confidence, intelligence, trustworthiness, and aggressiveness. We found significant correlation between vocal characteristics and court outcomes and the correlation is specific to perceived masculinity even when judgment of masculinity is based only on less than three seconds of exposure to a lawyer’s speech sample. Specifically, male advocates are more likely to win when they are perceived as less masculine. No other personality dimension predicts court outcomes. While this study does not aim to establish any causal connections, our findings suggest that vocal characteristics may be relevant in even as solemn a setting as the Supreme Court of the United States.
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