A study just published by psychologists at Yale University finds that male jurors are more likely to find female defendants with a high body-mass index (BMI) guilty. According to the study’s authors,
lean male participants were significantly more likely to believe that the obese female defendant met criteria for check fraud, and indicated greater belief she would be a repeat offender, compared with the lean female defendant.
Of course, general weight-based perceptions were controlled for, showing no change in perception of guilt when the defendant was obese and male. Katy Waldman of Slate.com spoke with one of the study’s authors and provides some of her own speculations on cause of bias.
Clearly this should become a consideration for for attorneys focusing on criminal law. It’s unclear from the article whether this bias is likely to apply in non-criminal matters, but regardless of the moral implications, this finding shows a real factor attorneys should take into account when evaluating cases in modern America.
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