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Wuensch and Moore (2004) acknowledge the positive perception of physically attractive individuals in the society. Additionally, attractive people tend to be treated better compared to those who are not attractive. Wuensch and Moore (2004) argue that unattractive offenders who rape attractive women are more likely to be perceived as guilty. The authors provide an example of a stimulated sexual harassment research undertaken in 1990. In reference to the research, cases involving unattractive perpetrators were more likely to have guilty rulings (Odds ratio= 2.5) compared to those with attractive offenders.
The authors also acknowledge that such trends are disturbing as the perception of the mock jurors is likely to affect their judgement on sexual harassment cases. As a result, these jurors are likely to infer that attractive offenders have other interesting features, and hence less likely to participate in criminal activities. Wuensch and Moore (2004) presented the aforementioned research study to university students and requested them to explain the actions of the jurors.
One of the most repeated responses from the students was that attractive men are incapable of harassing women. It was clear from the responses that the students thought that sexual desire was a predisposing factor to harassment. Based on findings from past research, this study sought to investigate the impact of juror’s gender, and the attractiveness of the offender on the verdict in a civil case. Specifically, this case involved an alleged sexual harassment of a male worker by his female boss.
Wuensch and Moore (2004) selected 324 students from an undergraduate psychology class. Majority (78%) of the students were Caucasian. Other races that were represented included; African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans. The average age of the respondents was19.5 years. The subjects were required sign an informed consent prior to participation, and the researchers emphasized on the fictional nature of the study.
According to the authors, a 2 x 2 x 2 research design was applied in the study. There were three independent variables assessed in the research; gender, attractiveness of the offender, and attractiveness of the accuser. The dependent variables included; the judgement and the participant’s admission of guilt. Wuensch and Moore (2004) classified the subjects into groups (10 to 40 students) and gave summaries of the plaintiff’s testimony and their photographs, a summary of the trial, and a respondent’s response form. Based on the case summary and the resources given, the students were asked to indicate what their verdict was (yes or no). Their verdict was listed on a 9-point scale that ranged from not guilty to certainly guilty
The participants rated the attractive versions of the perpetrator and the plaintiff better than the unattractive versions. Wuensch and Moore (2004) used the logit analysis to investigate the effects of the gender of the juror and the appeal of the complainant and perpetrator on the judgement passed by the mock jurors. The results showed that guilty rulings were more (77%) when the accuser was attractive than unattractive (63%).
The odds ratio for this analysis was 1.92 and the p-value was statistically significant. According to Wuensch and Moore (2004) female jurors more likely to pass guilty rulings (odds ratio= 1.5). The results also showed that that male judges were more likely to pass a guilty ruling when the offender was sexually appealing (odds ratio=2.7). Lastly, Wuensch and Moore (2004) analyzed the impact of the attractiveness of the accuser and offender on the certainty of the judgement given. A 3-way factorial ANOVA revealed that the certainty of the ruling was higher when the accuser was attractive (p=0.000).
Discussion and conclusion
According to Wuensch and Moore (2004), the physical appeal of the complainant was the most significant factor in the study. Based on the findings, when the female complainant was appealing, the jurors were more likely (Odds ratio=2) to pass a guilty verdict and were more confident about their decision.
The authors note that their findings are similar to the research undertaken in 1990. Generally, the jurors in the current study did not seem to support the view that a female boss would harass an unattractive male worker. Additionally, Wuensch and Moore (2004) report that the gender of the juror and the attractiveness of the offender acted as effect modifiers in the relationship between the accuser’s appeal and the final verdict. The authors speculate that female jurors are likely to pass a guilty verdict if the female offender is not attractive. Specifically, they might think of the unattractive female offender as being sexually frustrated.
In conclusion, the research recognizes that sexual harassment cases majorly involve males as the offenders. In addition, female jurors are more likely to rule in favor of the female victims, as they would identify with their own sex. In the case of the current research, male jurors only passed a guilty verdict when the female offender and the male complainant were both attractive. Furthermore, the attractiveness of the complainants significantly affected the judgements of the female jurors when the offender was unattractive. In the case of the male jurors, the complainant’s attractiveness affected their judgment when the offender was attractive.
Wuensch and Moore (2004) also conclude that female jurors were more likely to pass a guilty verdict in the sexual harassment case only when the accusers had different levels of attractiveness compared to their male counterparts.
Wuensch, K. L., & Moore, C. H. (2004). Effects of physical attractiveness on evaluations of a male employee’s allegation of sexual harassment by his female employer. The Journal of Social Psychology, 144(2), 207-217. Web.