Publication Date


Document Type


Committee Members

Cheryl Meyer (Committee Chair), Leon Vandecreek (Committee Member), Julie Williams (Committee Member)

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)


Individuals are bombarded with stereotypes every day in the United States. It is impossible to eliminate the effect of these stereotypes in any situation; however, the criminal justice system strives to find ways to minimize the impact of these stereotypes in the courtroom. In this study, the effects of socioeconomic status and attractiveness of a female defendant on sentencing severity, perceived recidivism, and deservedness of punishment in a murder trial were examined. The study was also designed to investigate how jurors may engage in cognitive processes such as motivated reasoning when biases are pointed out to them. Attractiveness and socioeconomic status did not affect sentencing severity, perceived recidivism, or deservedness of punishment. However, several general trends were evident indicating that females and Caucasians may be harsher in their sentencing overall, though results were not significant. Jurors did engage in motivated reasoning when they were confronted with their biases. In fact, to moderate cognitive dissonance that arises from that awareness, participants altered their ratings of socioeconomic status for the defendant. A more evenly distributed gender pool may enhance the study and findings.

Page Count


Department or Program

School of Professional Psychology

Year Degree Awarded


Included in

Psychology Commons