School of Biological and Chemical Sciences

Postgraduate menu

Profiling judicial judgments of guilt and innocence

About the Project

This project will establish how judgements of guilt and innocence are influenced by perceptions of an accused person’s facial and body characteristics. Our first impressions (“biases”) about another person are based on how they look, and these first impressions critically inform our future interactions and assessments. For example, when we see someone’s face we can infer personality traits such as sociability, morality, and competence in as little as 34 milliseconds (Todorov et al., 2015). These rapid inferences shape a wide range of decisions that we make about people, from employment to electoral decisions (Olivola et al., 2014) and mate choice (Little et al., 2011). Similarly, emerging evidence suggests that we make substantial inferences about leadership and competence based merely on a person’s height (Judge & Cable, 2004; Lukaszewski et al., 2016). Therefore, first impressions of superficial attributes generate biases that have strong influence over our choices in personal, professional, and even political contexts (Wilson & Rule, 2015). In this project the student will examine the influence of facial features, body morphology (e.g. musculature, waist-hip ratio), and features derived from morphology (e.g., weight) on attributions of guilt and innocence. There is emerging evidence that a person’s facial appearance can affect decisions around judicial assessments of innocence or guilt (Wilson & Rule, 2015) and knowledge of how facial and morphological characteristics influence assessment, alone and in combination, is urgently needed (Brierley et al., 2016). Therefore in this project, the student will employ a combination of methods from pyschophyics (behavioural measures and eye tracking) and cogniitive psychology (e.g questionnaires/decision tasks) to measure how perception of these characteristics influences judgments of innocence/guilt.


This position is funded by a QMUL Principal's Postgraduate Research Studentship and is available to EU, UK and International citizens. It will cover tuition fees as well as provide an annual tax-free maintenance allowance for 3 years at Research Councils UK rates (£16,553 in 2017/18). 

Eligibility and Applying

Applications are invited from outstanding candidates with or expecting to receive a first or upper-second class honours degree in an area relevant to the project. An masters degree is desirable, but not essential.

Informal enquiries can be sent to Dr Isabelle Mareschal ( For formal applications, please submit an online application before the stated deadline.

Apply Online


  • Brierley, M.-E., Brooks, K. R., Mond, J., Stevenson, R. J., & Stephen, I. D. (2016). PLOS ONE, 11(6), e0156722. 
  • Judge TA & Cable DM (2004). J Appl Psychol, 89, 428–441 
  • Little, A. C., Jones, B. C., & DeBruine, L. M. (2011). 366(1571), 1638–1659 
  • Lukaszewski, A. W., Simmons, Z. L., Anderson, C., & Roney, J. R. (2016). 110(3), 385–406 
  • Olivola, C. Y., Funk, F., & Todorov, A. (2014). Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 18(11), 566–570 
  • Todorov, A., Olivola, C. Y., Dotsch, R., & Mende-Siedlecki, P. (2015). Annual Review of Psychology, 66, 519–545 
  • Wilson, J. P., & Rule, N. O. (2015). Psychological Science, 26(8), 1325–1331
Return to top