Overweight women may want to diet before taking the stand in order to avoid a guilty charge if their jury is male. Yale researchers found that male jurors are ‘significantly more likely’ to convict an overweight woman than a slender one, based on their solely on their weight, when both are charged with the same crime.
Researchers at the Rudd Center for Food Policy Obesity at Yale University discovered this bias in a study 471 mock jurors. They also found the leaner the man the more likely he was to find the overweight woman guilty.
To conduct the survey, researchers gave 471 mock jurors details of a mock case of check fraud. Next, they were shown images of four fake defendants: an overweight man, a slender man, a slim woman, and an overweight woman. Then, they were asked to rate on a five-point scale how guilty the defendants were.
The male jurors generally rated the guilt of the overweight woman higher than the slim woman. Female jurors had no bias between the four defendants. The researchers found there was no difference in guilt between the overweight man and slender man. The bias of guilt was only when it involved the size of women when men judged their guilt.
Natasha Schvey the lead author of the study, said toldReuters, “It’s important to look at weight stigma not only as a public health priority but also as a source of sweeping social injustice.” She continued on saying that its prevalence is now on par with rates of racial discrimination.
The study was published in the International Journal of Obesity. According to The Daily Mail, the study said:
“Obese individuals are vulnerable to negative societal attitudes, stigma and prejudice in multiple domains. Driving such discrimination and bias are stereotypes that depict overweight individuals as greedy, lazy, unmotivated and lacking in self discipline and will power.”
Jason Bloom, a Dallas-based jury consultant, told Reuters the outcome of a case often turns on a defendant’s “ethos,” which can include a person’s appearance, clothing or demeanor. He added that gender can play a role in jury selection. Female defendants may benefit from having more women on the jury, but that he has never heard a juror admit to voting based on the weight of the defendant. Bloom said:
“That’s not to say it doesn’t happen. Sometimes these biases are hidden.”