Does ambivalent sexism influence verdicts for heterosexual and homosexual defendants in a self-defense case?

Brenda Russell, Laurie Lynn Ragatz, Shane W. Kraus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Scopus citations


The current research examined the role of defendant and participant sex, presence or absence of expert testimony of the "battered person syndrome", and sexual orientation of the defendant on perceptions of guilt in a self-defense case. The role of sexism in judgments of culpability was also examined. A sample of 442 participants read a self-defense case scenario and responded to questions pertaining to verdict, defendant culpability, legal element ratings, and sexist attitudes. Results revealed a four-way interaction, showing female participants prescribed the lowest guilt ratings to heterosexual female and homosexual male defendants who received expert testimony of the battered person syndrome. When heterosexual male defendants received expert testimony, ratings of guilt significantly increased. A multiple regression was conducted to determine whether legal and extra-legal factors predicted defendant culpability. Sexist attitudes (benevolent sexism towards men and women) and certain legal elements were predictive of defendant culpability. Limitations and implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-157
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Family Violence
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1 2009



  • Domestic violence
  • Expert testimony
  • Legal decision-making
  • Self-defense
  • Sexism
  • Sexual orientation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law

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