Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Jonathan M. Golding


There is limited work regarding multiple indicators of social status in the legal system (e.g., power and SES). The present study investigated the influence of defendant social status on case judgments in a first-degree rape case. The experiment used a 2 (defendant power: high vs. low) x 2 (defendant SES: high vs. low) x 2 (participant gender) between-subjects design. A sample of 282 community members were recruited via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Participants were presented with a case summary, asked to make guilt and credibility judgments, complete the system justification gender scale (gender SJ: Jost & Kay, 2005), and answer standard demographic questions. Main effects were found such that female participants and defendants rated higher in power (i.e., legal authority), led to increases in pro-victim judgments (i.e., guilty verdicts). No main effect of defendant SES was found. Further, the effects of power and wealth were mediated by victim credibility, such that increases in defendant power led to increased victim credibility, raising the number of guilty verdicts. However, this mediation varied based on participants’ gender SJ scores. Overall findings indicate that when a defendant was rated as high in legal authority, participants viewed rape as an abuse of power, and/or the victim as braver (i.e., credible) for coming forward.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)