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Understanding the darker side of beauty bias

"Not a killer!"

"He is too cute to go to jail"

"It was an accident so he didn't deserve that"

"He is a kind guy with a big and open heart"


These are some justifications given in defence of a 'good-looking' criminal.


For context, Cameron Herrin is a young man from Tampa, Florida. He made headlines in 2018 when he was sentenced to 24 years in prison for a hit-and-run accident that killed a mother and her young daughter. Herrin, who was 18 years old at the time of the event, hit the victims who were lawfully crossing the street in a crosswalk while he was indulging in an unlawful car race with a friend.


The individual, despite the crime he commited, was defended on social media apps. There was a huge uproar on apps like Twitter and TikTok, claiming that it was a mistake and that he is "too young and cute" to be penalised. 


Unfortunately, this is only one example of how beauty bias controls our opinions and thoughts. "Beauty bias," better known as "pretty privilege" is our tendency to give preferential treatment to people who are considered physically attractive, and to judge them more positively based solely on their appearance. Some of the advantages they recieve may include being treated better than others, better employment possibilities, and at times even higher pay.


Studies have shown that people who are considered physically attractive are often perceived as more intelligent, more trustworthy, and more successful than their less attractive counterparts. This bias is particularly evident in the criminal justice system, like in this case, where attractive defendants are more likely to receive lighter sentences and be viewed more positively by judges and juries.


The halo effect, a cognitive bias in which we tend to attach good attributes to individuals who exhibit a desired quality, could be one explanation for this. When it comes to beauty bias, a person's appearance is frequently mistaken for other desirable traits like intelligence or kindness, even when there is no evidence to support it.


It is important to understand that if there was a conventionally unattractive person instead of Cameron Herrin, they would not be treated with the same kindness as him. But since the criminal is an attractive individual, he is being allowed to get away with the deaths of two innocent people. People who romanticise criminals such as Ted Bundy, Richard Ramirez and others do not take into account the lives they have ruined. Sometimes they do not even realise that they defend them solely based on how good looking they are. They try to justify pretty privilege by claiming that asking for their better treatment is only a coincidence.


In the case of Herrin, it is important to remember that his actions resulted in the tragic loss of two lives, including a baby. By focusing on the attractiveness of the criminal rather than the harm they have caused, we are sending a message that it is acceptable to engage in criminal behaviour as long as you are physically attractive. 


In conclusion, the case of Cameron Herrin highlights the complexity of the issue of beauty bias or pretty privilege in our society. As educated and responsible people, we must be aware of the role that physical appearance plays in our judgments and perception on other people, and strive to make fair and impartial decisions based on facts, rather than on an individual's appearance.

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