Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)




Cheryl Dickter

Committee Members

Catherine Forestell

Madelyn Labella

Elena Prokhorova


In recent decades, the subarea of psychological research that focuses on the intersection between social psychology and the law has seen tremendous growth. Given that women in patriarchal societies may be especially prized for their physical appearance rather than their other qualities, as well as salient gender-role stereotypes and the increasing rate of female arrests and incarceration in the United States, the present study seeks to investigate the influence of both female defendant physical attractiveness and crime type on guilt attributions and punishment harshness. Non-college adults (n = 274) and undergraduates (n = 149) participated in an online study in which they read a vignette describing an alleged crime and viewed a photo of a defendant of either low, average, or high attractiveness. Participants decided the likelihood of guilt, indicated punishment severity, and justified their judgments. They completed the Facial Trustworthiness Scale, the Modern and Old-Fashioned Sexism Scales, and answered questions about their experience with the criminal justice system. Two 2x3 ANOVAs, as well as moderation and mediation analyses via Hayes PROCESS were conducted following data collection. Within both samples, main effects of crime type on guilt attributions and punishment harshness were uncovered, but no significant main effect of attractiveness on these variables was revealed. Within the non-college adult sample, participants’ fear of the crime mediated the main effect of crime type on guilt attributions, but this finding was not replicated in the undergraduate sample. Within the non-college sample, significant physical attractiveness x crime type x participant sexism interactions occurred. There was a positive relationship between participant sexism and punishment harshness in both the property and violent crime scenarios for the average faces. In the attractive condition, however, there was a negative relationship between participant sexism and punishment harshness in the violent crime scenario, and a positive correlation between these variables in the property crime scenario. Implications, limitations, and directions for future research are discussed.

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Available for download on Friday, May 08, 2026

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