Criminal stereotypes in the courtroom: Facial tattoos affect guilt and punishment differently

Friederike Funk, Alexander Todorov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Three studies using between-subjects designs examined the effect of facial tattoos on two stages of a courtroom trial. The presence of a facial tattoo affected judgments of guilt, but it did not lead to higher punishment ratings. This was the case for different types of crime varying in offense seriousness and for faces varying in perceived trustworthiness. The effect on guilt was fully mediated by the perceived criminal appearance of the tattooed defendant. These findings are the first that systematically address the question whether facial tattoos can bias legal outcomes. They further suggest that the psychological mechanisms by which an activated criminal stereotype influences legal judgments can differ for two stages of a trial. Policy implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)466-478
Number of pages13
JournalPsychology, Public Policy, and Law
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


  • Guilt
  • Punishment
  • Stereotypes
  • Tattoos
  • Trustworthiness


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