A recently published study by Cornell University indicated that “ugly” or unattractive people who are defendants in criminal trials are 22% more likely to be found guilty and are given longer sentences on average (22 months longer) than attractive people. The scientists conducting the study tried to look at why this occurs. Study co-author Justin Gunnell said:
Information processing can proceed through two pathways, a rational one and an experiential one. The former is characterized by an emphasis on analysis, fact and logical argument, whereas the latter is characterized by emotional and personal experience. Our hypothesis was that if we identify the two groups, then the experiential people are more likely to focus on extralegal factors, which shouldn’t have any bearing on the legal process. Attractiveness was the variable we used.
The study confirmed what it referred to as an “unattractive harshness effect.” Jurors who processed information in more of an “experiential” manner were the ones who gave longer sentences and were more likely to convict.
Psychologists and sociologists have long known of the advantages which more attractive people have: they are more likely to be hired and are generally paid more than less attractive people. Hollywood is practically defined by attractiveness.
Most lawyers will say that the outcome of many trials hinges on how well the jurors or judge “like” the litigants, lawyers and witnesses who appear in front of them. The trier of fact gives credibility or believes who they think is more attractive.
As I’ve indicated many times, settling a lawsuit or divorce matter is almost always in the best interests of all parties due to the unknowns of trial. Part of the unknown results from human biases, some of which were detailed in this study. We all like to think of a trial as “justice” but the reality sometimes is that it is a popularity or beauty contest.
If you would like to consider mediation to resolve your lawsuit or divorce, please feel free to contact me to discuss your situation further.
As an attorney, I just went through my first divorce case settled through mediation. Beforehand, the parties were so intractable that I couldn’t believe it would work. Moreover, both attorney’s presented how the settlement would likely be structured, and the parties still could not come to an agreement. Somehow the mediator was able to get the parties together. Good job!