Friday, October 16, 2009

Faceism and the Law

Zebrowith and McDonald (pdf) looked at 506 cases in Massachusetts small claims court to determine the effect of the defendant's facial structure on the judge's decision. One variable they examined was the "baby-facedness" of each defendant, rated on a seven point scale by two independent judges, with 7 representing the most baby-faced defendants (i.e., large eyes, thin/high eyebrows, large forehead, small chin, and curved instead of angular face). The results of the correlation for situations in which the defendant played an active rather than passive role ("intentional") are particularly striking:
This research was published 18 years ago. Why are judges and juries still allowed to look at the faces of the plaintiff and defendant? Why do we focus on discrimination against certain groups rather than others?