Jurors give passes to guys who wear glasses? The nerd defense

“Our line of research suggests that the presence of eyeglasses on a defendant may significantly affect verdict outcome. However, this effect is likely to be small and indirect. In both scenarios, the presence of eyeglasses increased ratings of defendants’ intelligence. For the violent crime scenario, this increase was associated with less guilty verdicts. Eyeglasses also decreased ratings of defendants’ as threatening; however, this decrease was not significantly related to verdict. Thus, how intelligent a defendant appeared was a better predictor of verdict outcome than how physically threatening he appeared. Future research should examine if other indicators of intelligence (level of education, vocabulary, etc.) produce the similar effects.

Our African-American defendant was rated as more attractive and more friendly when he was wearing eyeglasses. However, there were no such effects for Caucasian defendants. These results suggest that some of the stereotypes associated with people who wear eyeglasses found in previous studies may no longer apply to Caucasians. Furthermore, the presence of eyeglasses on an African-American defendant may not be consistent with the stereotype of the “violent Black criminal.”

The presence of eyeglasses also increased ratings of defendants’ intelligence in our white-collar crime scenario. However, in this case, increased ratings of intelligence were associated with more guilty verdicts. These findings support the notion that white-collar crimes require a certain level of intelligence and skill to carryout. Overall, Caucasian defendants received more guilty verdicts than African-American defendants; however, there were no interaction effects for defendant’s race and the presence of eyeglasses.”

Read the entire study here.

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