Date of Award

January 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Karyn Plumm


There has been an abundance of research showcasing an attraction-leniency bias that benefits attractive defendants of various crimes. However, this bias tends to diminish if the crime is deemed serious or if the defendant uses his or her attractiveness to commit the crime (i.e., swindle). The purpose of the current study is to investigate judgments made about a defendant being accused of a sexual offense. The study represents a 2 (gender of defendant) x 3 (attractiveness of defendant: attractive, unattractive, no picture) x 3 (crime severity: low, medium, high) factorial design. Participants (N = 686) were asked to report their beliefs regarding the case. Results showed that gender and attractiveness did not affect the sentence length. However, gender and attractiveness did interact for conviction belief, such that participants were less willing to convict the attractive and not pictured woman compared to the other defendants. In addition, although women were sentenced to less time than men, attraction of the defendant did not affect whether participants believed the defendant should register as a sex offender or the length of time on the registry. The present study provides insight into how people perceive sex offenders based upon gender and attractiveness.