A new study based on police surveys suggests in domestic violence crimes, where the woman is accused of murdering her abuser, the more attractive she is, the more likely she is perceived to be guilty.
According to psychologists, it has been noticed that physical attractiveness heavily influences how people are perceived by others in the labor market, academic and even legal fields. In some instances many believe "what is beautiful is good." In other instances such as, domestic violence, individuals may make other mental associations.
"One of the most interesting conclusions of the study was that when the woman accused of killing her abuser was attractive, participants attached greater culpability, whereas if considered 'unattractive', this decreases," as explained to SINC by Antonio Herrera, Inmaculada Valor-Segura and Francisca Expósito, the authors of the study published in The European Journal of Psychology Applied to Legal Context.
For the study researchers created two mock legal proceedings where the defendant was a woman accused of killing her husband. Her defense was that she had endured years of domestic abuse and acted in self-defense. In one of the mock proceedings the description of the women coincided with the description of a battered woman, whereas the other did not. Participants acted as the jury and answered a series of questions related to their perceptions of credibility, responsibility and control. Additionally, researchers asked participants about their beliefs and feelings regarding the sexes.
Researchers observed the greatest factor to influence a woman's credibility was whether or not she fit the stereotype of an abused woman. Another factor that influenced participants perception was the level of sexism.
"The results showed that when dealing with a non-prototypical battered woman (in other words, someone who does not conform to society's idea of such women), they were seen to have more control over the situation, which in legal terms can translate as a higher degree of guilt," researchers wrote.
Researchers hope with the study will increase training to handle domestic violence cases for all law enforcement officers.