Can we reduce facial biases? Persistent effects of facial trustworthiness on sentencing decisions

  1. Alexander Todorov

Date created: | Last Updated:


Creating DOI. Please wait...

Create DOI

Category: Project

Description: Trait impressions from faces influence many consequential decisions even in situations in which they have poor diagnostic value and in which decisions should not be based on a person’s appearance. Here, we test (a) whether people rely on facial appearance when making legal sentencing decisions and (b) whether two types of interventions—educating decision-makers and changing the accessibility of facial information—reduces the influence of facial stereotypes. We first introduce a novel legal decision-making paradigm with which we measure reliance on facial appearance. Results of a pretest (n = 320) show that defendants with an untrustworthy (vs. trustworthy) facial appearances are found guilty more often. We then test the effectiveness of different interventions in reducing the influence of facial stereotypes. Educating participants about the biasing effects of facial stereotypes reduces the explicit belief that personality is reflected in facial features, but does not reduce the influence of facial appearance on verdicts (Study 1, n = 979). In Study 2 (n = 975), we present information sequentially to disrupt the intuitive accessibility of trait impressions. Participants indicate an initial verdict based on case-relevant information and a final verdict based on all information (including facial photographs). The wide majority of initial sentences were not revised and therefore unbiased. However, most revised sentences were in line with facial stereotypes (e.g., a guilty verdict for an untrustworthy-looking defendant). On average, this actually increased facial bias in verdicts. Together, our findings highlight the persistent influence of facial appearance on legal sentencing decisions.


Loading files...


Recent Activity

Loading logs...

OSF does not support the use of Internet Explorer. For optimal performance, please switch to another browser.
This website relies on cookies to help provide a better user experience. By clicking Accept or continuing to use the site, you agree. For more information, see our Privacy Policy and information on cookie use.

Start managing your projects on the OSF today.

Free and easy to use, the Open Science Framework supports the entire research lifecycle: planning, execution, reporting, archiving, and discovery.