In the eye of the beholder: Decision-making of lawyers in cases of sexual harassment

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Abstract

Objective The purpose of the present study was to examine the effect of deliberative vs. intuitive thinking styles on forensic judgments of legal professionals. Two hypotheses were tested: (a) that low deliberative thinking would be related to judgmental biases (b) that lawyers would report a greater tendency and preference toward deliberative thinking in comparison to students and make more rational judgments. Method Ninety-one lawyers and 120 undergraduate students, who served as controls, were asked to read a criminal case depicting sexual harassment (SH) and judge victim and offender blame, whether the case constitutes SH, and the damage for the victim. Results Deliberative thinking of lawyers was higher than students, and higher than their intuitive thinking style, supporting the more rational blame attributions of the former. In addition, higher deliberative thinking was related to a stronger perception of the event as SH. Nevertheless, all the participants were more inclined to perceive the case as SH when the victim was a woman instead of a man. Conclusions The results suggest that gender stereotypes and bias may persist despite high deliberative thinking and may even be manifested through deliberative thinking processes. Awareness of legal professionals of these biases as well as the development of more objective tools which will help make the judging process less subjective—will ensure more accurate assessment of victims, offenders, and cases.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0272606
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume17
Issue number8 August
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2022

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