Updated: Apr 6
After viewing the mug shots, participants were informed about California’s “three-strikes” law—which mandates harsh sentences on habitual offenders with three or more convictions—and asked to rate it on a scale of 1 (“not punitive enough”) to 7 (“too punitive”). Then participants were shown a petition to amend the law to make it less harsh, which they could sign if they wanted.
The results were staggering. More than half of the participants who viewed the “less-black” photographs agreed to sign the petition. But of those who viewed the “more-black” photographs, less than 28 percent agreed to sign. And punitiveness had nothing to do with it. The outcome was as true for participants who said the law was too harsh as it was for those who said it wasn’t harsh enough.