Gender roles highlight gender bias in judicial decisions

April 03, 2018

Judges may be just as biased or even more biased than the general public in deciding court cases where traditional gender roles are challenged, according to a new study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

This study examined the role of gender bias relating to judges and legal decisions, and the sex discrimination worked both ways, sometimes against women and sometimes against men.

"These results show that judges' ideology and life experiences might influence their court decisions," said Andrea Miller, PhD, a visiting assistant professor of psychology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. "Many judges are not able to factor out their personal beliefs while they are considering court cases, even when they have the best possible intentions."

More than 500 judges from a state court system (68 percent men, 30 percent women, and 2 percent unidentified) participated in the study in an effort by that court system to address gender bias. The court system wasn't identified for confidentiality reasons.

"The judges who participated in the study did so at great personal and professional risk because they care deeply about confronting the possibility that there might be social group disparities in case outcomes," stated Miller, "This state court system has become a leader in the search for evidence-based solutions to the problem of implicit bias."

More than 500 lay people (59 percent men, 41 percent women) also were recruited online to take part in the study.

The judges and lay people analyzed two mock court cases, including a child custody case and a sex discrimination lawsuit where the plaintiff was presented as either a man or woman. The participants also completed surveys about their beliefs in traditional gender roles, such as stereotypes that women are more interested in raising children than in their careers and that children are better off if their fathers are the primary breadwinners for the family.

In the sex discrimination lawsuit, the plaintiff alleged that he or she was denied a promotion after taking six weeks of paid parental leave to care for an adopted baby. The plaintiff also wanted to introduce expert evidence from a psychologist about research on sex discrimination. Judges who supported traditional gender roles were more likely than lay people with similar gender ideologies to dismiss the case or rule against a female plaintiff.

In the divorce case, the father and mother both sought primary custody of their two children. Both spouses worked full-time jobs and sometimes had conflicts with caring for their children. Judges and lay people who supported traditional gender roles allocated more custody time to the mother than to the equally-qualified father, but the judges were even more biased in favoring the mother than were laypeople. Only three percent of the judges in the sample gave the father more custody time than the mother.

"In both of these cases, support for traditional gender roles was associated with decisions that encouraged women to engage in more family caregiving at the expense of their careers and discouraged men from participating in family caregiving at all." Miller said.

"Cultural ideas about gender bias may shape judges' decision-making as much as the rest of us," Miller said. "The significant expertise that judges possess doesn't inoculate them again decision-making biases, and we can't expect much change until we see policy reforms that address decision-making procedures in the courtroom."

Society for Personality and Social Psychology

Related Discrimination Articles from Brightsurf:

Muslims, atheists more likely to face religious discrimination in US
A new study led by the University of Washington found that Muslims and atheists in the United States are more likely than those of Christian faiths to experience religious discrimination.

Racial discrimination linked to suicide
New research findings from the University of Houston indicate that racial discrimination is so painful that it is linked to the ability to die by suicide, a presumed prerequisite for being able to take one's own life, and certain mental health tools - like reframing an incident - can help.

Perceived "whiteness" of Middle Eastern Americans correlates with discrimination
The perceived ''whiteness'' of Americans of Middle Eastern and North African descent is indirectly tied to discrimination against them, and may feed a ''negative cycle'' in which public awareness of discrimination leads to more discrimination, according to a Rutgers-led study.

When kids face discrimination, their mothers' health may suffer
A new study is the first to suggest that children's exposure to discrimination can harm their mothers' health.

Racial discrimination in mortgage market persistent over last four decades
A new Northwestern University analysis finds that racial disparities in the mortgage market suggest that discrimination in loan denial and cost has not declined much over the previous 30 to 40 years, yet discrimination in the housing market has decreased during the same time period.

Successful alcohol, drug recovery hampered by discrimination
Even after resolving a problem with alcohol and other drugs, adults in recovery report experiencing both minor or 'micro' forms of discrimination such as personal slights, and major or 'macro' discrimination such as violation of their personal rights.

Sexual minorities continue to face discrimination, despite increasing support
Despite increasing support for the rights of people in the LGBTQ+ community, discrimination remains a critical and ongoing issue for this population, according to researchers.

Fathers may protect their LGB kids from health effects of discrimination
Lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals who report being discriminated against but who feel close to their fathers have lower levels of C-reactive protein -- a measure of inflammation and cardiovascular risk -- than those without support from their fathers, finds a new study from researchers at NYU College of Global Public Health.

Uncovering the roots of discrimination toward immigrants
Immigrants are often encouraged to assimilate into their new culture as a way of reducing conflict with their host societies, to appear less threatening to the culture and national identity of the host population.

Using artificial intelligence to detect discrimination
A new artificial intelligence (AI) tool for detecting unfair discrimination -- such as on the basis of race or gender -- has been created by researchers at Penn State and Columbia University.

Read More: Discrimination News and Discrimination Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to