Entries in Bias (2)


Male Jurors Biased Against Obese Women, Study Shows

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- Male jurors are more likely to find obese women guilty than lean women, but they didn’t show the same weight bias against their own gender, a Yale University study found.

Researchers showed 471 study participants a photo of one of four people -- a lean woman, an obese woman, a lean man or an obese man -- and asked them to determine whether that person was guilty of an imaginary check fraud crime on a scale of 1 to 5.  Men were more likely to find the obese woman guilty than the lean woman, and the results were statistically significant.

“I think it’s one more nail in the coffin of how painful it is for people that are of larger sizes,” Lynn Grefe, president and CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association.  “These people could be healthy.  We’re judging people.  We’re making stereotypes.  We did this with race years ago.  We did it with religion.”

She added that while obese people are perceived as lazy or sloppy, people should remember that obese people don’t choose to be large.  They may have medical problems, different genes or a newly identified mental illness associated with binge eating.

Lead researcher Natasha Schvey said she and her team controlled for age and attractiveness by using the same woman twice and photo-shopping her to be both lean and obese.  They did the same for the men.

Schvey said she’d read about weight bias in other settings, such as office environments, but wondered whether it existed in the justice system.

“This seemed like a critical gap in the literature on weight stigma,” Schvey said, adding that it’s not clear whether negative socioeconomic perception based on body mass factored into the results.  “Since this is really just the first study of its kind, we just wanted to determine whether or not something might be going on.”

Ultimately, she said, the results were “disappointing but not entirely surprising.”  Men tend to judge women more harshly than men, and women tend to be more sympathetic.  The female study participants showed no weight bias.

“I think [it may be] because many women have gone on diets and had difficult times, and they’re not meeting their weight goals,” Grefe said.  “I think they’re more understanding.  A piece of it is [that] they feel sorry for them because they’ve been through it themselves.”

Grefe thinks there should to be anti-discrimination laws on the books for weight just as there are for race, religion and sexual orientation.

But women can take some comfort in the fact that mock jury studies isolate specific factors that rarely make their way into actual jury verdicts, said Paula Hannaford-Agor, the director of the Center for Jury Studies.

“Most studies of actual jury trials show that the weight of the evidence is the single most important factor affecting jury verdicts,” Hannaford-Agor said.  “Factors such as victim, defendant and juror demographic characteristics only account for a negligible portion of variation in jury verdicts.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Are You Unconsciously Racist?

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Deciding who we will trust, especially with our money, may be shaped more by unconscious racial biases than many of us would like to admit, according to new research published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Psychologists have shown that there is a distinction between the attitudes, beliefs, and self-perceptions we consciously, or explicitly, hold, and those that we may hold without thinking about them. Sometimes these conscious and unconscious attitudes match each other -- other times not.

In Monday's study, researchers focused on the extent to which unconscious racial biases may affect explicit preferences when we make decisions about whom to trust. Researchers measured implicit and explicit racial bias among 50 racially diverse participants using an Implicit Association Test (IAT) and questionnaires assessing self-reported racism.

Using these results as points of comparison, researchers then asked participants to rate the "trustworthiness" of nearly 300 faces (they were shown people of many races, though only scores for blacks and whites were used in the analysis). Then they had participants play a trust-based economic reward game. Participants were shown a photo of their supposed "partner" in the game, who was either black or white.

Overall, if people showed an unconscious bias toward whites, they were more likely to rate whites as trustworthy when asked, and more likely to risk more money with white partners. The same bias was true in the minority of participants who showed a pro-black bias.

At first it might seem obvious: people who are unconsciously biased to prefer whites are going to be more likely to trust whites, and vice versa with those who prefer blacks. But the effect runs more deeply than we usually realize, said Leslie Hausmann, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.

"Despite study after study showing that implicit bias exists, it's still something that a lot of people don't internalize within their own lives and behavior. There's a reluctance to admit that in our day-to-day lives, we have this and it matters," she said.

The study authors have also measured this type of implicit prejudice in doctors serving minority populations, and the doctors are always shocked to realize that their unconscious bias affects what medications they prescribe to patients of different races, said Mahzarin Banaji, a co-author who is a psychologist at Harvard University.

"This is not overwhelming evidence for racism," says Joachim Krueger, a social psychologist at Brown University, because at a group level, there was no discrimination. In the small "society" of the study participants, blacks and whites were given practically equal ratings of trustworthiness.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio