Overweight women more likely to be convicted in trial - study

By Victoria Cotterell

File photo / Thinkstock
File photo / Thinkstock

Overweight women are far more likely to be convicted in a criminal trial than their slender counterparts, a Yale University study has found.

But the conviction rate of men is not affected by their waistlines - and slim men are the worst offenders at judging women by their weight.

The study, published on online journal PubMed, asked 471 participants to act as jurors and decide whether or not they found a pretend defendant guilty of check fraud.

Both the 'jurors' and the 'defendants' had a range of body types.

The research team then analyzed the 'fat bias' shown by the pretend jurors against factors such as weight and gender.

The results showed that lean males judged overweight females the harshest, often labeling them 'repeat offenders' of a crime.

There were no statistically significant links between a male defendant's weight and the perception of his guilt.

There was also no significant fat bias shown by women towards either sex.

Dr Natasha Schvey, who was part of the study's research team, suggests one reason for the findings is the perception that overweight woman are more likely to belong to a lower socioeconomic class than overweight men, and therefore more likely to commit crimes.

Slate.com's Katy Waldman, however, proposes the history of stigmatization of overweight women could be to blame.

"Perhaps we (especially we lean men) associate heavier women (but not heavier men) with impaired impulse control, since obviously all female people (but not all male people) want desperately to be thin and are only not so when they can't regulate their Cinnabon cravings."

She also wonders if a "fog of guilt" surrounds overweight women, because being fat is considered by some to be "morally wrong".

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