Darryl A. Goldberg
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Why it could pay to get a makeover before you go to court

Attractive people get the advantages in life. Statistically, they tend to land better jobs and earn higher salaries. But a recent study shows that attractive defendants also tend to win the sympathy from jurors more often than their unattractive counterparts.

Legal researchers at Cornell University conducted a study, “When emotionality trumps reason: a study of individual processing style and juror bias.” In it, the findings indicated that attractive defendants had a lower chance of being found guilty. If they were convicted, their sentences were typically more lenient than for unattractive defendants convicted of similar crimes.

The study also found that appearance factored into assumptions participants drew about a defendant’s character. When defendants had a clean, put-together appearance, study participants associated this with happiness, trustworthiness and limited responsibility for the charges they faced.

The takeaway

We’re a superficial species—and we’re loaded with stereotypes. If you look disheveled, you could be more likely to be viewed as angry or dangerous. This is an association you certainly want to avoid—even subconsciously—in trial.

Just as you wouldn’t show up to a job interview in cut-off jean shorts and a dirty T-shirt, it also pays to present yourself in a professional, responsible-looking way in the courtroom. Shave. Get a haircut. Wear a suit and tie or dress. You may want to cover up any tattoos that could lead to a less than stellar impression of your character.

Look the best you can. Spending a little time on your appearance is worth the effort if it helps to get the jury on your side.

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Darryl A. Goldberg
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