'Attractive women likelier to be seen as guilty of murdering husbands'
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Women charged with murder, who plead self defence, are more likely to be perceived as guilty if they have "thick lips" and "smooth and harmonious facial features", researchers say.
The findings made by a team of researchers from the University of Grenada, Spain, contradict the generally held stereotype that beauty deflects criminal responsibility.
They found that in the case of a woman claiming self defence in the killing of an abusive husband, police officers were more likely to regard as innocent defendants who were described as unattractive.
The findings of the study also showed that women perceived as more independent and in charge of their lives were also more likely to be seen as guilty of murder.
Legal processes are ideally conducted without bias, but in reality biases influence all human judgements and looking at how these prejudices shape behaviour should help to minimise their effect.
"Attractive people are often perceived as having positive personality features and attributes in consonance with the implicit theory that 'beauty is goodness'," the Daily Mail quoted the study's authors as saying.
This 'halo effect' has also been previously shown to influence perception of other traits, with attractive people seen as 'more sociable, friendly, warm, competent and intelligent than unattractive individuals.'
To test this effect in the scenario of domestic violence, the Grenada team created fictitious scenarios in which a woman was accused of stabbing her husband to death as he lay in bed.
In each case, the woman's story was that she had been the victim of years of domestic violence and had finally killed her husband out of self defence. The only difference between narratives was the defendant's description.
In one story she was described with features typically regarded as beautiful – "Maria is an attractive woman with thick lips; smooth, harmonious facial features; straight blonde hair; and a slender and elegant appearance."
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