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.