Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Beyond Black and White: An Examination of Afrocentric Facial Features and Sex in Criminal Sentencing
by Petersen, Amanda Mae, M.S., Portland State University, 2014, 73; 1561452
Abstract (Summary)

Research on race and sentencing is increasingly moving beyond racial category analyses to include more subtle attributes such as skin tone and facial features. In keeping with this progression, this research examines the extent to which convicted offenders' Afrocentric facial features interact with sex in order to create longer criminal sentences for stereotypically Black males and females. A random sample of Black and White males and females currently serving prison sentences in the state of Oregon were selected for inclusion in the study. A preliminary regression analysis was run in order to determine the effect of broad racial category on sentencing length when controlling for offense characteristics, offense history, and extralegal factors. Additionally, photographs of a sample of 110 Black males and 91 Black females were rated for strength of Afrocentric facial features by undergraduate students. These ratings were averaged to create an Afrocentric rating for each Black individual in the sample. Regression analyses were then conducted for Black individuals in order to determine the effect of Afrocentric facial features and sex on sentence length. Results suggested that although broad racial category is not a significant predictor of sentence length, Afrocentric facial features interact with sex to produce longer sentences for Black males, but not Black females, with stronger Afrocentric facial features. Individuals with the fewest Afrocentric facial features were excluded from the analysis in order to limit the potential misperception of racial category by judges. These findings are consistent with current understandings of feature-trait stereotyping, as well as the focal concerns perspective regarding judicial decision-making.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Salisbury, Emily J.
Commitee: Leymon, Mark G., Sundt, Jody L.
School: Portland State University
Department: Criminology and Criminal Justice
School Location: United States -- Oregon
Source: MAI 53/04M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: African American Studies, Womens studies, Criminology
Keywords: Afrocentric, Facial features, Interaction, Race, Racial category, Sentencing
Publication Number: 1561452
ISBN: 978-1-321-06722-4
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