Dateline: July, 2007, Issue 3

Does facial hair matter on a criminal defendant?

Jurors evaluate more than the evidence at trial. Jurors also judge the appearance of a criminal defendant.

Conti (2004) conducted two studies to determine whether jurors stereotype criminal offenders as having facial hair.

In the first study, two photographs were "accidentally" dropped, and study participants were asked which photograph belonged to a defendant in a rape case and which belonged to a plaintiff in a head-injury case. The two photographs were similar in appearance except one person had facial hair. Over three-fourths (78%) of the participants identified the photograph with facial hair as being involved in the rape case.

In the second study, participants were asked to sketch the face of a criminal offender, and 82% of the sketches contained some form of facial hair.

Jurors perceive criminal defendants as having facial hair.

Source Conti, R. P. (2004). Mock jurors' perceptions of facial hair on criminal offenders. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 98, pp. 1356-1358.