Published on Wed Nov 17 2004

Effects of physical attractiveness on evaluations of a male employee's allegation of sexual harassment by his female employer.

Karl L Wuensch, Charles H Moore

Jurors were more certain of the guilt of the defendant when the plaintiff was attractive than when he was unattractive. Female jurors were more likely than male jurors to conclude that sexual harassment had taken place when the litigants were different in attractiveness.

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Abstract

College students (N = 324) served as mock jurors in a simulated civil case in which a male plaintiff accused a female defendant of sexual harassment. The authors experimentally manipulated the physical attractiveness of the litigants. The authors asked mock jurors to decide whether the defendant was guilty and to rate their certainty of belief in the defendant's guilt (or lack of guilt). Jurors were more certain of the guilt of the defendant when the plaintiff was attractive than when he was unattractive. Plaintiff attractiveness significantly affected female jurors' individual recommended verdicts when the defendant was unattractive but not when she was attractive. With male jurors, plaintiff attractiveness significantly affected their verdicts when the defendant was attractive but not when she was unattractive. Female jurors were more likely than male jurors to conclude that sexual harassment had taken place but only when the litigants were different in attractiveness.