The Eyes Really Do Have It: Attribution of Character in the Eyes of Killers
“The eyes are the window of the soul” is a staple cliché in many cultures, but is there any truth to this concept, of any potential importance in the forensic realm? The present study addressed this question in two experiments. It was shown that observation of the eyes and ocular regions of normal control individuals, and of serial killers, enabled average respondents to distinguish these individuals clearly in terms of trustworthiness, likability, and general “goodness.” In both experiments, and based on nothing but this observation, serial killers were consistently rated lower on all three indices. No sex or individual differences were observed in this pattern of results. These findings are consistent with current evolutionary and cognitive theory, and may highlight the importance of the perception of defendants by witnesses and jurors in criminal proceedings.
KeywordsInterpretation of eyes Serial killers Attribution of character Evolution and forensic psychology
The authors wish to thank Richard Herrera for his expertise and assistance in generating the digital stimuli employed in this study.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
This article is based entirely on original work conducted by the authors. Full ethical approval per University and OHARP regulations was obtained from the appropriate CSU Institutional Review Board in advance, and the study was IRB-designated “minimal risk.”
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Full informed consent, in writing, was received from all respondents and the completed informed consent forms are stored separately from the data under locked conditions, as per American Psychological Association regulations.
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