Friday, March 05, 2010

Justice Isn't Blind

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University has been hosting a really interesting series of talks. Video is available on the internet, too.

Here's one: Leslie Zebrowitz, a professor at Brandeis, has been doing research on how people's appearance governs how they are treated in court. The results are a little scary: if you have a "baby face", you are more likely to win your case in Small Claims Court when you are denying intentional wrongdoing. If the defendant is "maturefaced", and the plaintiff is "babyfaced", the plaintiff is more likely to get larger monetary damages.

This is just one in a series of results showing that people's unconscious biases strongly color their decision-making.


Guest said...

Indeed. In fact I would argue that the most popular use of rationality is the (conscious or unconscious) construction of rationalizations deployed to cover up one's fundamentally irrational decisionmaking. If people actually used their minds for constructive thinking, we'd all be frickin' Godels. However: not gonna happen.

larryniven said...

Did you hear about <a href ='>the study about how unattractive people are more likely to be criminals</a>? I question whether this sort of effect has something to do with that, but I don't have easy access to the full study.

Anonymous said...

I was on the jury in a trial - the prosecutor did not call to testify a policeman (who was a witness) but instead only a security guard (a slight, ~ 100 #, early 20's woman). I think she wanted to emphasize the physical difference between the guard and the ~ 220 # defendant as an unconscious affect on us.