Date

2014

Department or Program

Psychology

Additional Department or Program (if any)

Political Science

Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Linda Carli

Additional Advisor(s)

Christen Deveney

Additional Advisor

Nancy Genero

Additional Advisor

Christopher Candland

Abstract

This study examined the effects of a lawyer’s age, gender, and goals on biases in jury decisions. Participants read the closing arguments of a lawyer in a case involving libel. I hypothesized that female attorneys would be less influential than male attorneys would overall, and especially in conditions where the attorney is older and the goal is agentic. To test this hypothesis, participants were randomly assigned to read a statement made by either a male or a female attorney, who was either 30 or 55 years old, as indicated through a biographical note. Additionally, the note specified that the attorney was either working for compensation and thus had an agentic goal (focused on the self), or was working pro bono and thus had a communal goal (focused on the community). After reading the attorney’s argument, participants evaluated the attorney and the attorney’s message. Overall, the perceived competence and persuasiveness of the attorney was the most influential characteristic affecting opinion. Male participants perceived female attorneys as more competent than male attorneys, and female participants perceived male attorneys as more competent than female attorneys. Thus, men were more persuaded by female attorney, and women were more persuaded by men.

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