Our first impressions of others, whether accurate or unfounded, have real-world consequences in terms of how we judge and treat those people. Previous research has suggested that criminal sentencing is influenced by the perceived facial trustworthiness of defendants in murder trials. In real cases, those who appeared less trustworthy were more likely to receive death rather than life sentences. Here, we carried out several attempts to replicate this finding, utilizing the original set of stimuli (Study 1), multiple images of each identity (Study 2), and a larger sample of identities (Study 3). In all cases, we found little support for the association between facial trustworthiness and sentencing. Furthermore, there was clear evidence that the specific image chosen to depict each identity had a significant influence on subsequent judgements. Taken together, our findings suggest that perceptions of facial trustworthiness have no real-world influence on sentencing outcomes in serious criminal cases.

University of Lincoln, College of Social Science Research

Robin Kramer, University of Lincoln, School of Psychology

Ellen M. Gardner, University of Lincoln, School of Psychology