Document Type



Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor's Name

Ronald Fisher

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Brian Cutler

Third Advisor's Name

Margaret Kovera

Date of Defense



Previous research has found that people are able and willing to assess whether an individual is a criminal or a non-criminal based on facial observations. What has not been looked at is whether an attribution of criminality could influence decisions as verdict choice, culpability, or punishment severity. The present study examined the effects of target photos that depicted pre-determined “bad guys” and “good guys” on legal decision-making. Participants viewed a case file of an armed robbery and attempted murder. Half the participants viewed a photo of a defendant who was previously deemed a “bad guy” and the other half a “good guy.” No differences were found in verdict preference; however, target photos of “bad guys” elicited higher estimates of the future likelihood that the defendant would commit this type of crime than target photos of good guys. Results indicate that target photos are perceived congruent to their pre-determined categories, but those perceptions were disregarded and participants based their decisions on other factors when making crucial legal decisions.



Included in

Psychology Commons



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