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A Study Says Inmates with an "Untrustworthy Face" Are More Likely to Receive Harsher Punishments

It seems that those who are on trial are often unconsciously judged by not just the evidence on hand, but their facial appearance.
20 July 2015, 5:00am
Image via Pixabay.

Image via Pixabay.

A new study published in Psychological Science indicates that convicted murderers on Death Row are more likely to have an "untrustworthy face" than convicted murderers who have not been sentenced to death, NPR reports.

John Paul Wilson, a social psychologist at the University of Florida, organized the study, in which researchers showed over 700 images of Florida prisoners to a test group of about 200 people. Testers were shown about 100 images of prisoners (they did know know the men were convicted of murder) and asked to rate their trustworthiness on a scale from one to ten. It turned out that generally, those who received lighter sentences were found by testers to be more trustworthy.

Researchers then repeated the study, this time showing testers images of men who had been convicted of murder, as well as those whose murder convictions had been overturned. Though the testers were not aware who was innocent and who was guilty, they generally rated men whose convictions had been overturned as more trustworthy than those whose convictions had stuck.

This suggests that those who are on trial are often unconsciously judged by not just the evidence on hand, but their facial appearance.

Wilson told NPR, "These effects aren't just due to more odious criminals advertising their malice through their faces, but rather suggests that these really are biases that might mislead people independent of any potential kernels of truth."

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