Balkan Criminology


A Max Planck Partner Group


UGPOL - He has an Ugly Face, Must be a Policeman

Stereotypes related to the physical appearance of individuals are one of the most common stereotypes among people. In our culture and in other cultures, there are a number of sayings that reflect this stereotype. Thus, for example in the Croatian language culture the saying “ugly as a dog” appears. When it comes to crime, the general stereotype about people who are in conflict with the law as well as those who are not is well known in the saying: “ugly as thieves”. Without entering into the origin and nature of such stereotypes, we are interested to find out whether similar stereotypes can be found among people who have committed crimes and who are on the execution of their sentences in the prison system.

The leading question is whether there exist within the prison population some stereotypes about the outward appearance of representatives of the legal system, or the holders of certain functions in the criminal justice system. For example, are prosecutors in the eyes of prisoners “uglier” than police officers or judges? This could be explained as a pattern of communication that may exist in the population of people who are in prisons about persons who are responsible for the prosecution and the conviction of prisoners and for the fact that they have been deprived of their liberty.

Methodologically, the experimental design is used (post-test only). As independent variable a set of photographs showing faces of different sexes and different ages will be used. Photosets will be disclosed to the prisoners in a very short time interval (about 300 milliseconds) and they will have to rate the appearance of the person on the photo on a scale. The photos will be grouped according to particular roles in the criminal justice system (e.g., police officer, judge, etc.). The prisoners will be divided into categories according to the types of offenses for which they serve their sentences. We will be interested primarily in differences between those groups of prisoners who showed distinct aggressiveness while carrying out their criminal acts and those where this was not the case.

Data will be analysed statistically with the statistical package for social sciences, SPSS. Techniques used will include frequency distribution, measures of central tendency, t-test and ANOVA.