A woman is being accused of killing her children. She “looks” guilty. These are 5 reasons why we tend to think that a lot of people are guilty even before they’ve been tried. The trial of accused child murdered Casey Anthony is over and Casey was found not guilty. Most people are extremely upset because she appeared to be guilty for many reasons. None of these are based on evidence, but instead on what might be going on inside your mind that made you think she was guilty. Why do we tend to find people guilty in the “court of public opinion” so quickly?
- We have a strong need for closure: we want to find someone guilty and then get on with our lives. Things left unclosed leave us hanging. We’re uncomfortable with the thought that life is chaotic.
- We like simplicity: it’s hard to think about all the complexities that might be involved in a murder case.
- Casey Anthony is attractive: we tend to get really negative when we think that an attractive person is using their attractiveness to try to get away with something. If Casey Anthony were more ordinary looking….
- Role theory: when you put someone in a role – like “the accused” – it’s hard NOT to also attribute other negative characteristics to that person. We see Casey in prison clothes and in handcuffs. It’s hard to think of accused persons as “innocent until proven guilty” these days
- Casey Anthony didn’t seem to be upset when we saw her on TV: we expect her to be crying and distraught all day long. We imagine that we would feel and act that way if our child was murdered. Research shows that no matter what happens to us – really good or really bad – we tend to return to our natural, day-to-day selves within about 6 months. This is especially hard to imagine when the TV news shows us, within about a minute, a picture of a very cute child and then a video of a mother who doesn’t seem to be upset.
- Interesting article on why the jury made the right decision: The Casey Anthony verdict: The jury did the right thing
- Here’s another psychologist’s perspective on the Casey Anthony trial. This blog post is by John M. Grohol, PsyD: The Psychology of the Casey Anthony Trial
The offensive(?) joke:
A man is walking along the street when he is brutally beaten and robbed. He lies unconscious, bleeding. While he is lying there, a police officer passes by, but crosses to the other side of the road, without trying to help. A boy scout troop does the same. As do a number of pedestrians. Finally, a psychologist walks by, and runs up to the man. He bends down and says, “My God! Whoever did this needs help.” Found here.