Bias in the courtroom: Trim that beard

Bias in the courtroom: Trim that beard

This story gets at the unrelenting human bias that we all encounter from time to time, in ourselves and others. Bias is also a human problem in the criminal justice system, and the fact that it exists there as it does everywhere else makes things that much worse for the person who has been accused of a crime.

If you’re facing charges of sexual assault or rape, for instance, juries are more likely to think that you did it if you are sporting facial hair, at least according to researchers who studied the issue.

As Brian Alexander reports for MSNBC, these researchers found that mock juries were more likely to believe that a man facing rape charges, who also happened to sport facial hair, was guilty of those charges.

But there’s a contradiction inherent in the beard. On the one hand, juries might think that a man with facial hair is guilty of the crime. On the other, people generally think that beards convey status and maturity and a host of other things.

“Beards appear to be linked with perceptions of elevated age (maturity), social status, dominance and threatening facial displays,” wrote researcher Barnaby Dixson, as Alexander reports.

If you are facing criminal charges, contact a criminal attorney in Maryland before you talk to police or anyone else.

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