Decades of social-psychological research show that gender bias can result from features of the social context and from individual-level psychological predispositions. Do these sources of bias impact legal decisions, which are frequently made by people subject to factors that have been proposed to reduce bias (training and accountability)? To answer the question, we examined the potential for 3 major social-psychological theories of gender bias (role-congruity theory, ambivalent sexism, and implicit bias) to predict outcomes of labor arbitration decisions. In the first study, undergraduate students and professional arbitrators made decisions about 2 mock arbitration cases in which the gender of the employee-grievants was experimentally manipulated. Student participants' decisions showed the predicted gender bias, whereas the decisions of experienced professionals did not. Individual-level attitudes did not predict the extent of the observed bias and accountability did not attenuate it. In the second study, arbitrators' explicit and implicit gender attitudes were significant predictors of their decisions in published cases. The laboratory and field results suggest that context, expertise, and implicit and explicit attitudes are relevant to legal decision-making, but that laboratory experiments alone may not fully capture the nature of their effect on legal professionals' decisions in real cases.
- ambivalent sexism
- implicit bias