People who have faces that are judged as less trustworthy are given the death penalty more often than people viewed as trustworthy, according to recent research in the journal Psychological Science. The results “paint a somewhat alarming picture of how systems of legal punishment are vulnerable to the same biases in person perception that afflict everyday individuals,” write John Paul Wilson and Nicholas Rule, the authors of the paper.
This study builds on previous research suggesting that people judge the trustworthiness of faces with a high degree of consensus—we more or less agree on which faces count as trustworthy and which don’t.
People with less trustworthy faces are, unsurprisingly, less likely to be trusted by other people. Economic games played in psychology labs show that even children as young as five years old are less likely to trust these individuals, and that this effect holds even when there’s information about the other person suggesting that they’re trustworthy.
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