Date of Graduation

Fall 2010

Degree

Master of Science in Psychology

Department

Psychology

Committee Chair

Matthew Fanetti

Keywords

child sexual abuse, perceived physical attractiveness, juror perceptions, defendant characteristics, sentence severity

Subject Categories

Psychology

Abstract

Research on child sexual abuse court cases has demonstrated that factors such as the age and gender of the victim, the gender of the perpetrator, and the relationship between the perpetrator and child impact sentencing outcomes. This study was designed to assess the impact of the perceived physical attractiveness of a perpetrator on sentence severity as rated by mock jurors. Student participants were presented with a vignette detailing an incident of sexual abuse between a schoolteacher and a 13-year-old child and a photograph of the alleged perpetrator. The photographs were of both males and females who had been rated as either "attractive” or "unattractive” before the study. They were told to assume the defendant in the case had been found guilty of a charge of child sexual abuse and to rate how severe of a sentence they should receive using an analog Likert scale. The 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 Factorial ANOVA yielded a main effect for physical attractiveness, indicating that physically attractive perpetrators received significantly more lenient sentences than unattractive perpetrators.

Copyright

© Stephanie Lynn Dixon

Campus Only

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