Imagine hearing about a brutal rape, who comes to mind when you think about who did it? If you are like most people, it seems you thought about a man with a beard. There is now scientific evidence that supports the claim that people in Prince George’s County believe that men with beards are more likely to be guilty of some kind of sexual assault than beardless men.
There have been numerous studies that indicate that many people have very negative perceptions about men with beards. One study shows that people perceive a bearded face to be more threatening or angry when making a mean expression than the same face making the same face while clean-shaven. Scientists believe that facial hair draws attention to and amplifies the threatening characteristics of a man’s face and makes the overall jaw size look bigger.
Obviously not everyone with a beard is a criminal or would sexually assault someone, but that does not mean that many jurors won’t take a suspect’s beard into account when determining guilt. Everyone should be given the same presumption when on the stand and it is patently unfair for jurors to go into a courtroom thinking that a man’s beard makes him more aggressive.
One former study asked 371 people to draw a picture of a criminal offender. Of those 371 drawings, approximately 304 had some kind of facial hair. In a different study, researchers found that mock juries were overwhelmingly more likely to believe that a man with a beard had committed a violent or sexual crime than someone without a beard.
It is these kinds of statistics that makes people ask whether men with beards are truly getting a fair trial.
Source: MSNBC, “Sorry, guys: We judge you by your facial hair,” Brian Alexander, May 10, 2012