Can we reduce facial biases?

Persistent effects of facial trustworthiness on sentencing decisions

Research output: Working paperScientific

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Abstract

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.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusSubmitted - 2019

Cite this

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title = "Can we reduce facial biases?: Persistent effects of facial trustworthiness on sentencing decisions",
abstract = "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.",
author = "Bastian Jaeger and Alexander Todorov and Anthony Evans and {van Beest}, Ilja",
year = "2019",
language = "English",
type = "WorkingPaper",

}

TY - UNPB

T1 - Can we reduce facial biases?

T2 - Persistent effects of facial trustworthiness on sentencing decisions

AU - Jaeger, Bastian

AU - Todorov, Alexander

AU - Evans, Anthony

AU - van Beest, Ilja

PY - 2019

Y1 - 2019

N2 - 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.

AB - 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.

M3 - Working paper

BT - Can we reduce facial biases?

ER -