Does Unconscious Bias Affect Trial Judges?
40 Pages Posted: 11 Jul 2007
Date Written: July 9, 2007
Research suggesting the influence of unconscious racism and sexism has proliferated in recent years. Even people who embrace explicitly egalitarian norms harbor invidious implicit associations concerning women and minorities. But do these implicit attitudes affect behavior in a legal context? To study this, we recruited 80 trial judges from a large urban jurisdiction to participate in a study of "the psychology of judging." In the study, we assessed the influence of implicit associations in judges two different ways. First, we sought to replicate a previous study conducted on police and parole officers which found that "priming" these actors with cues intended to trigger associations with African-Americans produced negatives assessments of two hypothetical juvenile offenders. Second, we had judges assess hypothetical scenarios in which the race or gender of the primary character varied and correlated these results with judges' implicit associations concerning race or gender. Although we found evidence that judges held invidious implicit associations, we found no evidence that implicit associations affected their judgment.
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