Study Shows Judges Fine Unattractive Criminals 304.88% Higher Than Attractive Criminals

Do judges favour attractive criminals over unattractive criminals?

Probably, according to the research conducted by A. Chris Downs and Phillip M. Lyons.

The purpose of this study was to find a link between a criminal’s attractiveness and sentencing outcomes.

The researcher's gathered a group of police officers and students to rate the attractiveness of over 2000 criminals. A scale of 1 - 5 was used and their ratings were mostly in unison.

Then, the judge’s sentencing decisions were divided into two main categories: misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors were separated into to 3 classes, related to the severity of the crime.  

The Result

1. Misdemeanours

Judges fined unattractive criminals significantly more than attractive criminals. The fine incrementally increased as the attractiveness decreased.

2. Felonies

Curiously, felony fines had no correlation with the attractiveness of the criminal. The study does not make it clear why this is the case.

Answers to Possible Objections

  • The judges varied in gender and race.

  • There was no correlation between sentencing outcome and age, gender and race of the criminal.


For privacy reasons, the specific crime was not documented.

The direction of causation is not known:

The relationship of attractiveness to litigation processes may be of four basic types.

First, it may be that persons who are less attractive commit more serious crimes than those who are more attractive. This view suggests that unattractive people are more inclined toward crime, especially violent crime.

The second view is that criminal actions elicit differential perceptions of objective attractiveness, so that attractiveness estimates are modified by prior knowledge of the actions of the persons being judged.

Third, attractiveness and antisocial/criminal behaviors are tightly pleached, probably from an early age. Because their associations are routinely high, it is probable that the direction of effects between attractiveness and such behavior will remain unknown.

Finally, it may be possible that a third variable affects the relationship of attractiveness and criminal accusations/activities. Socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and developmental advantages (e.g., nutrition, schooling) might be such factors.

However, the incremental changes of the correlation between attractiveness and sentencing, weighs heavily on the probability of a causal link (refer to above image).

Key Takeaways

  1. The higher the attractiveness of the defendant, the lower the fine.

  2. While the direction of causation is unknown, one may infer that advising a client to present themselves as best as possible, could lower their sentence.

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